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News Maryland Harford County Forest Hill

Residents question need for mulch business near Hickory Elementary

Hickory-area residents said they are worried about plans to put a mulch business near Redner's market, citing concerns about affecting the nearby watershed and increasing traffic.

The proposal for a mulch business on the 48.9-acre, mostly wooded site in the 2000 block of Conowingo Road (Route 1) was up for review Wednesday before the Harford County Development Advisory Committee, where a handful of neighbors had questions about possible impact on their nearby residential community.

One resident wondered about the elimination of the wooded buffer between Route 1 and the Bel Air/Hickory Bypass, but Bob Wilson, of Wilson Deegan & Associates, the engineering firm that did the site plan, said there are no plans to clear woods as part of the current project.

Wilson said the plan is to use one existing building that had been used by a sign company, make parking improvements and have a 30-foot landscape buffer. Another building on the site will be demolished, he said.

The property is owned by 2001 Conowingo Road LLC, with a Jarrettsville post office box address, according to property tax records.

The site is bordered by Route 1 on the north, the bypass on the south, the Redner's shopping center off Route 543 on the east and about 15 homes on the west. The entrance from Route 1 is across from Hickory Elementary School.

Two representatives from the Maryland Department of the Environment at Wednesday's meeting said they are concerned about putting a mulch business near a stream and recommended having the owner set up a preliminary meeting with the department.

Residents attending the meeting complained that the new mulch business – there is an existing mulch yard not far from the proposed one – is a sign of more development in their community.

David Coleman wondered how the property is became zoned commercial. He said the property was state-owned prior to 1957, when the zoning code was first adopted.

Moe Davenport, the committee chairman, explained the state had surplused the property and it assumed the zoning of the adjacent property.

Residents said the site had been everything from a tomato cannery to a trucking facility and may be contaminated.

Another resident, Bonnie Coleman, said the developer has approached residents with so many different scenarios that everyone is confused about what could happen.

"We were told by the state that we would be protected, that once you put that bypass in there, you are not going to have to worry," she said.

She said Hickory Elementary School already has traffic issues when parents pick up children.

"We have been told so many different scenarios and I don't feel we have a good picture of what is going on here," Coleman said. "There are only 15 of us that live back in there, but we thought we were secure with the watershed."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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