Aberdeen could get 15 new apartment buildings with 84 total units, to be called Colony at Beards Hill on Beards Hill Road, just west of existing houses and next to the city-owned pumping station.
The city's planning commission unanimously approved a preliminary site plan for the project, which was presented Wednesday by developer Colony at Beards Hill LLC.
The property, which was previously zoned R1 and B3, was rezoned to R3 and B3 earlier this year.
The 15 buildings would be on about 18 acres of a parcel with 26.4 acres total.
Lawyer Joe Snee, who was representing the developer, noted the city has a goal of a wide variety of housing in Aberdeen.
"We think we will be promoting that goal with this project," he said.
The developer is proposing a total of 492 parking spaces, 12 more than required at the city's minimum of 2.5 spaces per unit.
Six of the buildings would be either three or four stories and the remaining nine buildings would all have three stories, with 12 units each, Snee said.
The project would feature a clubhouse with pool and bathhouse as well as an athletic club and a game room.
The developer said the project is very similar to a development called The Summit at Owings Mills, in Baltimore County.
"We're trying to do something that probably has not been seen in Harford County," Rick Chadsey, vice president of Asset Management and representative for the project, said.
"We're looking to do a secure, high-end apartment complex that's going to look nice and feel nice."
Chadsey the intention is to put rolling mounds with landscaping on top between the parking and Beards Hill Road.
"That way you're not just seeing the building," he said.
Planning and development director Phyllis Grover asked if sidewalks for Beards Hill Road were a consideration and the developer replied road improvements are definitely needed.
Grover also reminded the developer of traffic concerns along Beards Hill Road.
Several roads inside the development would be private and built by the apartment complex.
Aberdeen police were pleased with the security camera complex, Lt. Fred Budnick said about the site.
Chadsey said the only way to build the project is all at once.
"That's the way financing works," he said, adding the first two buildings will be the ones by the clubhouse.
He said the clubhouse and pool will only be available to the tenants, not up for rental.
Commission chairman said traffic will be an issue if the project goes forward.
"This is going to put a heck of a load on Beards Hill Road. I have a friend who lives there and he can hardly get out of his driveway now, and you're going to add 100-[some] cars," he said.
"We need to see how we can improve that road for the people that live there as well as for the people who will live in that apartment," Swisher said.
"People come from the shopping centers, they scoot down there to go out Paradise Road. It's hard to get out of your driveway," he said.
Swisher said the city should consider adding a stoplight to Beards Hill Road.
"The challenge is to the town to see how we can do something about that," he said.
City councilwoman Sandra Landbeck chimed in from the audience: "To get Middleton Lane through."
The planning commission also discussed a proposed amendment to the city code dealing with "mini-warehouse and warehouse facilities," better known as self-storage or mini-storage buildings.
Commission members wondered if such facilities would fit in B3 or another zone.
Swisher said: "I think we need to develop a definition of a mini-warehouse, mini-storage, whatever."
The debate came up on behalf of Rick Chadsey as well, who submitted such a property.
He noted mini-warehouses should have a provision to allow for a small store on site.
Grover said she provided a memo in June with proposed definitions.
Commission member Mark Schlottman said: "I think we all know what a mini-storage is but we don't have it defined."
Commission member Karen Heavey asked what the difference is between mini-storage and self-storage, and Chadsey explained self-storage is just a preferred name because mini-storage often has a bad connotation.
Schlottman also said he was generally against allowing the facility.
"It takes up a lot of land and employs very little people," he said. "With that said, I'm also charged to follow the zoning code and if it becomes a permitted use, I would vote for that because then it would be the code."
"As a citizen sitting up here, my opinion would be no. They're usually on a very visible piece of property on a major highway. I mean, it's a big box that employs maybe two or three people tops, that's the way I look at it," he said.
Dudley Campbell, on behalf of Bay City Land Services, said most people who look into self-storage are families, not trucking companies or other organizations.
"We're designing it for the general public, we're designing it for families, we're not designing it for tractors and trailers and things like that," he said.
"It is not warehouses, it's self-storage and it's mainly for families coming off the street," he said.
Campbell said the reason the facility was kept in B3 is because many new resident organizations and homeowner associations do not allow residents to keep items like boats in their driveways, as they are considered "eyesores."
"I understand everyone's theory on B3, but I respectfully suggest keep it in B3 but just use a little bit stricter setbacks," he said.