Harford council passes master plan 6 to 1; Joppa community plan written out

The Harford County Council passed the 2012 Master Plan by a vote of 6 to 1 Tuesday night, with Councilman Dion Guthrie voting against it because he felt the Joppa/Joppatowne community plan was being excluded.

Guthrie had pushed for the entire wording of that community plan to be included, which would have meant prohibiting any waste disposal facility in the Joppa area, as the community wanted.

He noted three community associations are against removing the language, and suggested the removal could be a sign of the exclusion of other community plans in the future.

"Is yours next? Is yours going to be attacked next?" he asked the other council members. "We are elected to do what the community wants...Honor what the citizens there want."

Guthrie called the crowd of more than 80 people who came out Monday night for a county-run presentation on the proposed waste transfer station Monday night "the largest crowd I have ever seen at a Joppa/Joppatowne Community Council meeting."

Councilman Joe Woods also spoke out against the decision to excise the Joppa plan, but ultimately voted in favor of the overall plan.

Woods said he received "a ton" of e-mails and phone calls from people who have nothing to do with Route 7 but do not want the community plan taken out.

"It seems like you are ripping a part of them out," he said. "If it was Fallston [being removed], it would be unbelievable how many people would be here... The message over and over again, more than 'stop the incinerator,' was, 'Why is our part of the master plan being taken out?'"

Councilman Dick Slutzky, however, called the language of the community plan section verbose.

"My problem is the [amendment] has a huge amount of verbiage and limits the ability of the council to adjust and adapt to the new conditions that exist [in the county]," Slutzky said.

Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti also said it is too dangerous to forbid building a major piece of infrastructure in one entire community.

She said the inclusion of this community plan is a departure from what has been done with other community plans, such as Perryman's, which is simply referenced.

"The concern I have is this one line, and I think it's very difficult to prohibit a public facility... in an entire region of the county," she said. "If we did that, we are setting an enormously disastrous policy."

She said the council put a bill in place recently allowing for substantial public input for any waste facility.

"The meeting last night does not constitute a public input meeting," she said.

Other than the controversial waste disposal issue in Joppa, the master plan passed with few amendments and general support from the council.

Also at the meeting, the council voted unanimously to uphold the zoning examiner's decision in the case of John Hofmeister, whose request for a variance to have two pole barns in the 2500 block of Forbes Lane in Fallston was denied, and upheld a veto by Harford County Executive David Craig on a personnel classified service bill based on several technical concerns.

Craig said in his veto the largest impact from the council's amendments to that bill changes the fiscal impact from nothing to $2.2 million immediately and creates an out-year impact of more than $15 million by doubling the amount a county retiree would be paid for unused sick leave.

The amendment requires retirees to be paid 100 percent of the value of unused sick leave.

"This amendment also takes Harford County in a completely different direction than every other county," Craig wrote.

He was also concerned about other amendments that remove the ability to use sick leave for the adoption of a child, undo an agreement with unions to make language concerning maternity leave to reflect the Family Medical Leave Act and shorten the extension allowed for an employee probationary period.

Council members said they would work with the administration to create a more acceptable bill.

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