Bel Air South MedStar project approved, with conditions

Site plans for MedStar Health's proposed medical facility near the intersection of Plumtree Road and Route 924 (Old Emmorton Road) have been approved by Harford County planning and zoning officials.

The approval, granted in mid-July, comes with conditions, however, including requirements to upgrade five surrounding intersections, based on a traffic impact analysis submitted by the developer, Bel Air Property Development LLC of Minneapolis and approved by the Department of Planning and Zoning, the county's Department of Public Works and the Maryland State Highway Administration.

The Department of Planning and Zoning sent a letter to the developers informing them of the approval of their site plan and the conditions

Shane Grimm, chief of site plan review for planning and zoning, said the developers must sign the approval letter to acknowledge the conditions and then comply with those conditions.

"Then they could move toward getting a building permit," Grimm said.

As of Tuesday, planning officials had not received the signed letter from the developers.

"We're reviewing it," the developer's project manager Gerry Powell, who is with Frederick Ward Associates of Bel Air, said of the letter.

The traffic improvements include building an "exclusive" right-turn lane for northbound traffic on Tollgate Road to Bel Air South Parkway; creating "additional storage" on westbound Plumtree Road at the intersection with Route 24 by extending the left-turn lane by 100 feet, which would widen the approach for westbound traffic to the intersection; and widen eastbound Wheel Road at the intersection with Route 24 by creating an individual right-turn lane, a through lane and a left-turn lane, according to the county's letter to the developers.

Additional traffic improvements include extending by 75 feet the left-turn lane for westbound traffic on Patterson Mill Road approaching the intersection with Route 924, and the right-turn lane for northbound traffic on Route 924 by 25 feet, approaching Patterson Mill.

The intersection of Route 924 and the Bel Air South Parkway/Laurel Bush Road must be improved by adding 100 feet to the left-turn lane for southbound traffic on Route 924 and building a second lane for southbound traffic going onto Laurel Bush.

MedStar officials plan to build one three-story, 102,235-square-foot building as part of an ambulatory care campus on 16.27 acres behind the Walgreens store and Sonic Drive-In restaurant on Route 924.

A second three-story, 27,765-square-foot building would be built if needed, the project manager said in February when the project went before the county's Development Advisory Committee.

"When the need arises, the smaller building will be built," Powell said at the time, according to The Aegis.

The project is expected to cost $30 million, and Powell said during the DAC meeting earlier this year the first building is expected to open in fall of 2014. About 500 to 800 patients are expected to visit the campus each day.

The MedStar project is being built in a heavily-developed area, and would be across Route 924 from undeveloped land where Walmart is seeking approval to build a store.

Bel Air South resident Bill Wehland, who has been vocal in his opposition to the Walmart project and a second project involving 198 apartment units east of the Walmart site at Route 24 and Plumtree, was more favorable to the MedStar project.

"I was never against that particular project," he said Monday. "I think it's something that Bel Air really needs, and to me it's not anything like a big box store; there'll be so many trips there each day."

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