A vote to proceed on annexing land west of Aberdeen has been delayed until at least Aug. 26, as some city leaders have requested additional time to review a draft land-use study on the future development of tracts west of I-95.
“I can’t vote for it without reading the land-use study,” Mayor Patrick McGrady said Monday.
The mayor and council were scheduled to vote Monday evening on two resolutions related to the proposed annexation of the Adams Property and Seibert Farm, which comprise more than 80 acres along Gilbert Road. Resolution 19-R-02 pertains to the annexation agreement between the city and the property owners and developers who have requested annexation and plan to build about 400 residential units.
Resolution 19-R-03 sets out the terms for enlarging Aberdeen’s boundaries to take in the additional 80 acres and change the zoning from agricultural, as designated by Harford County, to Integrated Business District once the land is part of the city.
Council members Sandra Landbeck, Tim Lindecamp and Melvin Taylor said they were ready to vote Monday, but the mayor and Councilman Steven Goodin said they want more time to review the draft land use study. McGrady suggested waiting at least two weeks until the next council meeting, which is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 26.
Patrick Small, senior planner with the Matrix Design Group, presented the draft Aberdeen I-95 Area Land Use Study Monday evening. The city hired Small’s Crofton-based firm in early 2019 to review the existing Integrated Business District within Aberdeen’s boundary heading northwest to Aldino-Stepney Road, as well as the Gilbert and Long/Heat planning areas adjacent to the city, as Aberdeen officials update their 2011 comprehensive plan.
The land-use study is separate from the annexation, but the acreage slated for it, which is in the 800 block of Gilbert Road, is part of the larger Gilbert planning area and is within the area studied near the I-95/Route 22 interchange. Those study areas include residential neighborhoods off of Gilbert Road, Aldino-Stepney and Maxa Road, development along Long Drive plus Ripken Stadium and then the commercial areas along Technology Drive south of Route 22.
“This is a policy document,” Small said as he presented the draft plan. “It’s intended to guide the future of these three planning areas. It’s not a regulatory document; it’s not legally binding, it doesn’t direct the city to do anything.”
He said the plan includes “action steps that the city can take to facilitate” development in the study areas.
Small presented two alternatives for how development could be laid out in study areas, with variations in the types of housing, where green space, sidewalks and bike paths could be located and what road improvements can be made.
He also presented potential improvements to the road network within the study areas, such as placing a traffic signal at Route 22 and Aldino-Stepney Road, connecting existing residential roads or widening Aldino-Stepney and Gilbert from two lanes to four lanes.
Small stressed that such road improvements would not happen right away and should be done in a manner “consistent with the development that happens in these areas.” He also recommended coordinating new development with Harford County.
Phyllis Grover, the city’s director of planning and community development, said the draft plan would be presented to the Aberdeen Planning Commission during its Wednesday meeting, and comments from city leaders would be presented to Small within 30 days.
Small noted that he has spoken with some members of the local development community, including developer Peter Bosworth, who is among the applicants seeking the city’s approval of the annexation.
“I think his application is in keeping with the spirit of the plan, should you consider that application tonight,” Small said.
Several people who live near the annexation areas urged city leaders to delay voting on the annexation resolutions Monday, after hearing the proposals in the draft land use plan.
“My heart about sank to the bottom of my feet,” said Gilbert Road resident Teanna Ringgold. “It is very ambitious, that plan.”
Rosemary Queen, of Locksley Manor Drive, said she does not like the proposal to connect residential roads, as she prefers the quiet and privacy of her neighborhood in its current state.
Robert Keen, also of Gilbert Road, spoke against widening his street to four lanes, calling the proposal “ridiculous.”
Keen said he is not against development if done in a proper manner, but he expressed concerns about having more speeders and traffic noise on Gilbert if it is widened.
“I think a lot of people in the area don’t want to see that area become a traffic nightmare,” he said.
Mayor McGrady, who told Keen he agrees that widening Gilbert is a “bold recommendation,” urged his colleagues to consider postponing a vote on the annexation resolutions until they can review the draft plan, which is about 120 pages. He also noted the zoning for the annexation areas cannot be changed once the resolution is approved.
Landbeck objected, saying voting on the resolutions just means the city would proceed with the annexation, and the land-use plan can be applied later as the properties are developed. She made a motion to adopt both resolutions.
“I’m not sure that we need to digest this before we simply say, ‘Yes, we’re going to go ahead and do the annexation,’ because we’ve been talking about this for months," Landbeck said.
Lindecamp said the land-use plan would not change how he votes on annexation, and Taylor expressed his support for a vote Monday.
“This is a good time to try to position the city for future development,” he said.
Councilman Steven Goodin said he wants time to review the plan. Landbeck determined she did not have enough votes to proceed and withdrew her motion.