Development plans continue for former Bel Air Auto Auction site, where decommissioned buses wait to be auctioned

Development plans continue for former Bel Air Auto Auction site, where decommissioned buses wait to be auctioned
Decommissioned school buses site on the vacant Bel Air Auto Auction site, either already auctioned off or waiting to be. A site plan for the 45-acre property will be reviewed by the Harford County Development Advisory Committee Aug. 21. (Erika Butler/The Aegis / Baltimore Sun)

Dozens of empty school buses have been sitting on the former Bel Air Auto Auction site for the last few weeks.

They were either sold at auction in July or will be sold at auction later this month, an auto auction employee said.


While the buses sit there, plans to redevelop the 45-acre parcel are progressing. A preliminary plan and a site plan are scheduled to be reviewed Aug. 21 by the Harford County Development Advisory Committee.

The meeting, where plans for the Aumar Village residential development are also set to be reviewed, is scheduled for 9 a.m. in the Harford County Council Chambers. DAC meetings are typically held in the first floor conference room of the Harford County administrative building.

In the meantime, the auto auction is still using the property.

The buses on the Bel Air site are from Baltimore and Montgomery counties because there was no room on the lots in Riverside, said Christina Paquette, administrative support specialist for Harford County Public Schools office of communications and family outreach.

The Bel Air Auto Auction sells the buses at auction once they’re decommissioned, she said.

Harford schools began using Cochran Auto Auction to sell its decommissioned buses two years ago.

School buses cannot be used for more than 12 years, unless conditions are extended according to code, and may not be used at all to transport students if they have been in operation for 15 years or more, Paquette said.

The buses on the lot are “a combination of buses from each sale,” said Jonathan Rufenacht, a Bel Air Auto Auction official.

Auctions are held on the fourth Tuesday of the month.

Bel Air Overlook

The development plan for the former Auto Auction, which moved to Riverside in 2017, has already drawn criticism from the local community.

Proposed for the parcel are 131 townhouse and condominiums and 70 mid-rise apartments, all for the elderly.

Also proposed are a 5,500-square-foot convenience store with gas pumps, a 12,000-square-foot restaurant and 42,000 square feet of retail and office space.

The concept plan shows an interior road network serving the residences with two entrances to the community from Route 1 at Auction Way and at what had been the original entrance to the auction which hadn’t been used for many years. The proposed retail would be concentrated at the property’s Route 1 frontage, which is between Bel Air Carpet and Harford Rental.

Alan Cohen, a principal in Cohen Siegel Investors, a Rockville residential and commercial development company, is the contract purchaser of the auto auction property, which is owned by the Raymond Nichols family and its BSC America company that operates public vehicle, equipment and real estate auctions in Maryland and Florida.


More than 100 people attended a community input meeting on the plan in October 2018, most of them against the project, citing traffic concerns in an area already congested.

“The traffic on that road is too much traffic as it is,” Max Carozza, who lives on Lake Fanny Road, about a block away from the proposed development, said at the meeting.

“That road can not handle the traffic on there now. With all these property, stores, whatever it is, you could be looking at thousands of cars a day going in and out of there,” he said. “How do you expect the road to handle that when it can’t even handle the traffic as it is now?”

Other residents were concerned about their water supply and nearby water sources, including the nearby Winters Run, which provides water for Maryland American Water customers, including those at the Auto Auction site. Some are concerned the natural aquifers could be damaged with new development.