Residents express concerns for Harford's master land use plan

A request by Crossroads Community Church to be included in Harford County's development envelope is drawing support and criticism from residents in the Creswell area, while at least one person is against expanding the county's designated growth area by 700 acres between Aberdeen and Havre de Grace.

And plans to keep the Fallston area mainly agricultural are sitting well with residents of that community.

Those were some of the sentiments expressed at Tuesday evening's public hearing in the newly reopened county council chambers on the proposed 2012 Master Plan and Land Use Element Plan.

The public hearing was held before the legislative session and though 14 people signed up to speak, only 12 people approached the podium with their concerns and requests. Prior to the public speaking portion Janet Gleisner, of the planning department, presented updates to the master plan.

Several people were there for and against a request by Crossroads Community Church, at 2910 Calvary Road, to be included in the development envelope. Pastor Bob Bullis was there to support his church and mentioned that their newly purchased property already has public sewer but they can't access it.

A nearby resident, Mark Joslin, of the Bynum Hills community, spoke against Crossroads Community Church's request to be included in the development envelope. When they purchased their homes outside the development envelope, he said, they were aware they would need to have individual wells and septic systems.

Joslin also mentioned that the church leaders met with community members to discuss their plans, but 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 want 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, including whether the rural residential designation would be used in the future. Gutwald said the designation will be eliminated 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 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.

Council members did not vote on the master plan during Tuesday's meeting and Council President Billy Boniface said they would not vote at the next meeting either.

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