The newly reopened Harford County Council chambers were packed Tuesday evening as residents gathered for the 2012 Master Plan and Land Use Element Plan public hearing.
The council held the public hearing prior to the legislative session to allow for input on the proposed bill from residents as well as council members. Janet Gleisner, of the planning department, presented the updates to the plan, which include changing all future rural residential designations to agriculture.
Council President Billy Boniface said the council would not vote on the plan Tuesday, or at the next meeting.
Pastor Bob Bullis, of Crossroads Community Church, was the first of 14 people signed up to speak at the hearing, requesting that the church's newly purchased property, at 2910 Calvary Road, be included in the development envelope.
The back of the property already includes public sewer, Bullis said, but the land is not in the development envelope and cannot access it.
Mark Joslin, of the nearby Bynum Hills community, spoke next against including Crossroads Community Church in the development envelope. When they purchased their homes in Bynum Hills, Joslin said, they were aware they would need to have individual wells and septic systems and, although they appreciate that the church met with community members, he is "concerned with their efforts" to connect to county facilities.
Others spoke during the hearing both for and against the proposal from Crossroads Community Church, including residents of Cedarday Estates, who earlier in the year opposed a proposal to build a road through their development.
From the Perryman area, Glenn Dudderar, of Park Beach Drive, asked the council to keep natural resources in mind during development and to discourage "non-essential roads" and structural stormwater management facilities that could have an impact on such resources.
Morita Bruce, of the controlled growth group Friends of Harford, said the plan should not be voted upon until the county provides more detailed maps, including property lines and boundaries, to both the public and council members, who she said should have an opportunity to review them.
The current maps, she said, are "unclear," "imprecise" and "easily misunderstood."
Representing the Greater Fallston Association, Beth Poggioli praised the organization's involvement with the master plan and urged the council to leave Fallston as an agricultural community.
The area is already congested with traffic, she said, adding that they also wanted to protect the Winters Run watershed. Delta Sewell, of Old Fallston Road, emphasized the need to keep the Fallston area agricultural.
"I want there to be virgin land for some of you people's children and grandchildren, even great-grandchildren," she said. "Let's don't destroy what we have that is undeveloped until we need it."
A member of the Agriculture Preservation Board, Bob Tibbs spoke against the master plan proposal to put more than 700 acres of agricultural land between Aberdeen and Havre de Grace in the development envelope.
He wanted to go on record against that portion of the proposal, Tibbs said.
Prior to the public comment portion of the hearing, council members talked at length about the plan and asked Planning Director Pete Gutwald several questions. Through these, Councilman Jim McMahan confirmed that the rural residential designation would not be used in the future, in favor of agricultural.
Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti also asked why potential school sites were not included in the master plan, to which Gutwald responded that the Harford County Board of Education had its own land use plan.
The updated master plan also includes land around Harford Community College and Gutwald assured Lisanti that it did not add the land to the development envelope, rather recognized the land already owned by the college.
Gutwald also briefly explained the timeline, saying that after the master plan is adopted the county will then look at regulation measures and changes in the zoning code.
Councilman Joseph Woods also briefly discussed the cultural arts center proposed for the Graham property along Route 24, during which Gutwald said the proposed location has "always" been a topic of conversation.
The council members, as well as Gutwald, also acknowledged that several bills before the Maryland General Assembly, if approved, would have an impact on the master plan. They recognize that changes are coming "down the hill," Gutwald said.
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