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Concerns raised at Fallston community meeting over Aumar zoning

The Fallston Community Council's monthly meeting at the Fallston fire station Tuesday night was sparsely attended, but that didn't stop those present and council members from expressing anxiety regarding developer Michael Euler Sr.'s latest plan to build an indoor athletic facility near the intersection of Routes 1 and 152.

Euler is seeking a change in zoning definitions in order to build a "fieldhouse" or indoor sports facility on 11.5 acres near the intersection of Routes 1 and 152 in Fallston.

The proposed fieldhouse would be an indoor arena containing amenities similar to an athletic club, according to language defining a fieldhouse in Euler's application, said Andrew Tress, Harford County Council President Billy Boniface's legislative aide.

"Nothing is for sure yet, but that's kind of like what some of the legislation that went in [said] because it needed a special definition of a fieldhouse defined," Tress said. "What [Euler] has now, he's allowed certain things within that zoning, but he needed that one definition of a fieldhouse to be put in as something to use [in order to build]."

The proposed zoning change, Bill 13-29, is scheduled for a public hearing by the Harford County Council on Tuesday, June 11, starting at 6:30 p.m. If the legislation, which is sponsored by Councilman Joe Woods of Fallston, is enacted, Euler would still be required to file for a special zoning exception to build a fieldhouse on the Route 1 property. The county council would have the final say on the zoning exception in its capacity as the county Board of Appeals.

Euler previously planned to put an RV park on the property, which is located next to the Aumar Village Shopping Center, which Euler also developed.

After announcing his plan to build the RV park in November, Euler was met with strong opposition from Fallston residents and abandoned the idea, suggesting instead at a March Fallston Community Council meeting that a youth sports facility would be a better idea.

Community council member Morita Bruce said she conducted research and found that Euler's plans do not have a precedent in the county, as other indoor sports and athletic facilities are on business or commercial zoned land, and Euler's property is zoned agricultural. Bruce said she fears the legislation, if approved, would have far-reaching implications.

"I'm personally concerned that the zoning code is being rewritten for one project for one specific piece of ground," Bruce said. "The problem is when you change the zoning code, it changes all of Harford County."

"The danger in this by calling it something else, and where they are putting it, opens it up to all residential areas and ag properties potentially as a special exemption," she added.

She also questioned if the infrastructure could handle a project of the magnitude Euler is proposing.

"Indoor sports facilities are going to, in my opinion and experience, bring in a lot of traffic," Bruce said. "That's what they're designed to do, especially if they are commercial."

Bruce urged those at Tuesday's community council meeting to contact their county council representatives or attend the public hearing on the legislation and register their opposition to the bill and urge for clearer definitions in the zoning language. There were only about a dozen people at the meeting.

One Fallston resident who attended and said she grew up near the Route 1 property said she thinks there is a larger motive behind the legislation.

"I would almost think that this is about getting [zoning codes] ready for someplace else and not necessarily for there," Mandy Trouyet said of the Euler property.

Trouyet, who said her mother still lives next to the property, noted that the site is 'swampy' and said he water table is very high. She suggested that any building foundation would require extensive excavation, as much of the property is also on a sloping surface.

The Fallston Community Council will not meet during the summer. Its next meeting will be Sept. 24 at the fire station at 6:30 p.m.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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