Editorial: Too late, too much

The addition of 69 new houses to the area in Fallston bounded by Routes 1, 152 and 147 is lately drawing fire from a community irritated by an existing problem with traffic, but there's no good reason at this late date in the process for the Harford County government to do anything to stop the proposed development.

As a practical matter, the addition of that many houses is going to have a relatively minimal impact on an already congested area. The reason the area is a problem now isn't because someone is proposing a few houses that will be the straws that break the camel's back. As is often the case with congestion problems in Harford County, huge tracts were developed over a span of years and rush hour traffic emanating from large areas of Bel Air, Forest Hill and Fallston was directed onto roadways that came into being 20 or 30 or more years ago. Then there have been the recent additions, not the least of which are the Fallston Walmart and the Fallston Crossing residential development that came into being when the old Fallston General Hospital was plowed under.

By comparison, the Hamilton Reserve neighborhood proposed on 28.5 acres is a drop in the bucket.

The traffic problem in the area is real and getting worse, but can you to justify stoping fewer than 100 houses proposed for an area zoned for what's proposed, especially when so much earlier development is what led to the problem?

Furthermore, it isn't like there wasn't a chance to prevent a substantial amount of this development before it was essentially signed off on by an act of the Harford County Council.

The area of Fallston in question was technically outside the main development area of Harford County but ended up being included by virtue of what was supposed to have been a limited extension of the development area to include what was in place when the development area was written into the law. The Route 1 corridor in Fallston was added like an appendix onto the larger Harford County Development Envelope, with water and sewer service extended to serve the area because well and septic systems were failing and because of the hospital and existing and future commercial development along Route 1. The hospital is long gone, and most of the ensuing commercial development consisted of car lots and, of course, Walmart and, now, Aumar Village which has improved on the area's appearance but is likely to add to the traffic congestion, if it hasn't already.

Until relatively recently, the Fallston Sanitary Subdistrict, as this area was called, was precluded from expansion, even as the development community pushed for its boundaries to grow. But this has been a genie out of the bottle situation from the git-go, as in, how do you deny water and sewer service to one property, when the property right behind it has them?

Over time, the county council opened the door to all this, but it will not be responsible for the consequences as most of the affected roads are state roads, whose expansion is subject to the governor and a few powerful legislators, none from Harford at this juncture, who hold sway over the comings and goings of the Maryland State Highway Administration.

So, go forward Hamilton Reserve must, but we're still waiting for someone to answer coherently how those 69 families who settle there will be able to safely leave the development in the morning and return in the evening? There are entrances to both Route 1 and Route 147 from neighboring Fallston Crossing, there won't be for Hamilton reserve, just a single way in and out onto a two lane Route 147, jammed southbound every morning rush and vice-versa in the evening.

Put in a signal? No way. Build a roundabout? Are you kidding? A right turn lane, left turn lane? We say it won't work? Frankly, we're watching with interest to see how the state, county and the developer shuck and jive their collective way out of this serious traffic safety situation in the making.

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