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The Aegis
Harford County

Harford County residents plan to fight against Abingdon Woods development “until the bitter end”

Although Harford County residents opposing the Abingdon Woods development may not appear to be as active as they were when the project was proposed in 2019, Harford County Climate Action President Tracey Waite said their work has not ceased.

“We have been fighting this and working on this every day,” Waite said. “There hasn’t been a day that’s gone by that we have not been taking some kind of action on this.”

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The proposed development of Abingdon Business Park would see the construction of more than 2 million square feet of warehouse facilities on 326 acres of wooded land.

“We don’t want to leave any stone unturned,” Waite said in regard to their efforts.

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Opponents have been working behind the scenes, reaching out to county officials, searching for endangered species in the area and pursuing multiple legal challenges.

The current project developer is BTC III I-95 Logistics Center, LLC, which is registered in Colorado. Chesapeake Real Estate Group, the developer of the proposed warehouse project on the Mitchell property in Perryman, is the former developer of the Abingdon Woods project.

Cindy Mumby, the county’s government and community relations director, said the developer has not yet applied for any building permits for the project.

The Abingdon Woods opponents have mounted two legal challenges. One involves the project’s forest conservation plan; the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is representing the opponents in that action. The second challenge focuses on the project’s wetlands and waterways permit; the Chesapeake Legal Alliance is providing representation in that matter, according to Waite.

The Maryland Department of the Environment wrote in a March 14 letter that alterations did not need to be made to the wetlands and waterways permit. However, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation case was appealed after being dismissed and will be heard by the Maryland Court of Appeals May 9.

Paul Smail, the foundation’s attorney, said opponents maintain that the forest conservation plan would allow for the clearing of more trees than allowed by state and local law.

“Forests are kind of the lungs and kidneys of our land,” Smail said.

Waite said that the recent efforts of Perryman residents to halt the Mitchell property warehouse development have reignited the Abingdon Woods crowd to start attending Harford County Council meetings again. She said that in 2019 Abingdon Woods opponents used the same tactics as the Perryman residents, such as speaking out at council meetings, but to little avail.

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“When they started going to county council [meetings] and it looked like they were actually getting some traction,” Waite said, “we thought maybe the county council would be willing to do something after all, even though they had been telling us for so long that there was nothing they could do.”

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Waite noted that the Abingdon Woods contingent doesn’t want to take the spotlight from the Perryman coalition, because they also want them to be successful.

“We’re both fighting the same battle here,” she said.

The Abingdon Woods and Perryman proposed developments raise a bevy of similar issues for area residents, including traffic concerns and negative environmental impacts. One potential consequence of the Abingdon Woods development would be degradation of the water quality of nearby Otter Point Creek.

“Economic vitality is really important to Harford County,” said Kathy Baker-Brosh, president of the Otter Point Creek Alliance nonprofit, “but environmental stewardship should be part of that planning process.”

Abingdon Woods falls in council member Andre Johnson’s district. Johnson said he doesn’t have an issue with development if it’s “smart growth.” However, he also noted that the county has an “abundance” of warehouses that are fully or partially vacant.

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Waite also said the proposed development is a potential economic justice issue. The site is near William Paca/Old Post Elementary School, a Title I school that is 45 percent Black and 76 percent nonwhite, according to statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics. Title I schools have high concentrations of low-income students and receive federal funding to help meet educational goals.

“We intend to fight until the bitter end,” Waite said. “We will not give up until we have exhausted every possible method of preserving this forest.”


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