People lined South Main Street in front of the Harford County administration building in Bel Air late Monday afternoon, to not only make the public aware of their opposition to the proposed Abingdon Business Park retail and warehouse development, but to put county officials who work in the administration building on notice.
The proposed business park includes more than 2 million square feet of warehouse, commercial and retail buildings on 326 acres of wooded land near the Route 24/I-95 interchange in Abingdon — land that is zoned for commercial and industrial use. Members of the community, including many people who live in neighborhoods off of Route 7 and Abingdon Road and are near the site, have been speaking out against the project since January.
Opponents have cited concerns about the loss of woods and wetland areas, potential harm to wildlife and the Ha Ha Branch stream that runs through the property, noise and exhaust fumes from tractor-trailer trucks going to and from the warehouses, as well as increased traffic on roads that are already heavily used such as Route 7, Route 24, Abingdon Road and I-95.
At least 85 people stood along the sidewalk and in the grassy swale between the street and sidewalk in front of the administration building at 220 S. Main St. They held protest signs and waved at drivers in rush-hour traffic at the intersection of Main Street and Churchville Road, with many motorists honking their horns in response.
Tracey Waite, president of Harford County Climate Action, compared the protesters to the “water protectors” who protested construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, in 2016 in order to protect local water resources from potential contamination from the oil pipeline — construction was ultimately approved shortly after President Donald Trump took office in early 2017.
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“I’m going to call all of you ‘forest keepers’ and ‘forest protectors,’” said Waite, who has been working in recent months with other community groups opposed to Abingdon Business Park in its current form.
Waite and other community and neighborhood groups have been meeting with county planning staff and representatives of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, as well as the business park developers, seeking modifications to the plan to better protect the natural resources on site.
Representatives of those groups “do not believe that current proposals and efforts thus far comply with the minimum legal standards,” as stated in a letter sent to county Planing and Zoning Director Bradley Killian last Friday.
“We urge the County to reject the current proposal and require adjustments to bring the plan into conformance with best planning practices and laws,” the letter continues.
Monday’s protest drew people from the affected neighborhoods as well as many other parts of Harford County.
Sharon Delgado, of Jarrettsville, stood at Main Street and Churchville Road, holding a protest sign. She noted Jarrettsville is “nowhere near Abingdon Woods,” referring to the site slated for the business park.
“But, I really believe that we have so little of the natural world left; to plow it under for warehouses that we don’t need makes so little sense," Delgado said.