Bel Air

Plan to turn downtown Bel Air alley into full street quietly fading away

A plan to turn a one-block alley just west of downtown Bel Air into a full-fledged town street is dying a quiet death with the final reconciliation amendment of the town's 2014 budget.

The budget amendment, which was introduced as Resolution 1029-14 at Monday night's town meeting, would remove $200,000 from the reconstruction of Western Alley and redistribute the money to a capital reserve account as the fiscal year winds to a close at the end of this month. A public hearing on the resolution will be held at the June 16 town meeting, after which it is expected to pass that evening.

The project "is not moving forward," Finance Director Lisa Moody said.

Public Works Director Randy Robertson confirmed Tuesday the town has decided not to convert the alley, which runs from Thomas Street to George Street, just east of Plumtree Park, into a full-width town street, with curbs, gutters and sidewalks, one that would have been wide enough for a lane of traffic in each direction.

Robertson said the town commissioners and town staff decided the demand for the project wasn't great and the money could be better used elsewhere.

How the Western Alley project evolved is not totally clear, but in 2011 the town approved a building permit for a house on the east side of the alley, and with that approval came an easement for a 30-foot right of way from the developer of the lot.

The new home, which has since been built and occupied, joined two existing, older homes on the west side of the alley and a third which fronts on George Street. The only other private property on the street is a law office in a converted house that fronts on Thomas Street, but has a detached garage and small parking area on the alley.

The main changes to town government since 2011 has been the departures late last year of Chris Schlehr, who retired as town administrator, and David Carey, who stepped down from the Board of Town Commissioners after he became a District Court judge. Schlehr, as the town's chief operating officer, and Carey, who was town board chairman, or mayor, in 2011, supported the project.

To the graveyard with the project will apparently go a suggestion from three years ago, by Commissioner Edward Hopkins, that the street be renamed after it was fixed up to honor the Scotts, the prominent Harford County family that once owned most of the land that became the Town of Bel Air.

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