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Ponderosa Estate residents oppose pedestrian access from former Bel Air Auto Auction site

Ponderosa Estate residents oppose pedestrian access from former Bel Air Auto Auction site
A mixture of housing for the elderly, retail and commercial development are planned for the former Bel Air Auto Auction site on Baltimore Pike. (Matt Button / Aegis Staff / Baltimore Sun)

Residents of Barkeford Road in the Ponderosa Estates neighborhood in Bel Air made it perfectly clear — again — they do not want pedestrian access between their well-established neighborhood and the residential, retail and commercial development proposed for the former Bel Air Auto Auction site.

“We’re not interested in that access point. Why are you pushing it down our throat when it’s something that we’re not interested in?” Anthony Tabasco, who lived on Barkeford, said to members of the Harford County Development Advisory Committee meeting Wednesday.

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“All the residents in that neighborhood do not want that.”

The committee reviewed a preliminary plan and site plan for the Bel Air Overlook development, which would be situated on the nearly 44-acre site on Baltimore Pike, vacated by the auto auction company when it moved to Riverside in September 2017.

The committee also reviewed Michael Euler’s proposed Aumar Village residential development off Route 152 and Harford Road in Fallston and subdivision of a property in Peery Drive in Churchville called Harlan’s Glance.

Bel Air Overlook would be comprised of four lots, one of which is for future development, Jeff Matthai of Morris & Ritchie Associates Inc., told DAC members.

Rockville-based Cohen Siegel Investors, the contract purchaser and developer of the site in the 800 block of Baltimore Pike, is proposing a two-acre commercial lot with a 5,500-square-foot convenience store with gas pumps, a 3.5-acre retail and office lot with two buildings — 6,000 square feet and 12,000 square feet with retail over office, and another lot with 201 housing units for the elderly — 131 townhouses and 70 one-bedroom apartments, Matthai said.

The development would have two access points along Baltimore Pike, one at a traffic signal at Saline Drive across from the Klein Family Harford Crisis Center and a second, a right-in right-out, about 560 feet south at Gustavia Way.

The existing entrance to the former auto auction site, at the flashing yellow light, would be eliminated.

It’s the proposed pedestrian access points to the rear of the property that have many residents upset about the development.

“Our big concern is the pathway. You’re only talking 11 houses on that road and it doesn’t really lead to anything except Foxbow [Drive],” Charles Dell’Uomo, who lives on Barkeford, said. “You’re opening that up to questionable people walking through that neighborhood.”

He said he doesn’t understand the purpose of the pedestrian access.

DAC Chairman Moe Davenport called it a “positive thing for the overall community” and said it’s to promote connectivity between the neighborhoods for people who might want to walk for exercise or walk to any of the stores.

“It’s not a positive on our street, and I’m sure it’s not a positive in the general area,” Dell’Uomo said.

Davenport countered that the pedestrian access is an alternative to walking on Tollgate Road.

“You’d rather put children on Tollgate other than [the access]?” he asked.

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Dell’Uomo said if people want to get to the convenience store, they can drive to it using Tollgate.

Tabasco said Barkeford residents would rather wait until the housing complement is built and get those residents’ opinion of whether they want the access.

“You’re making decisions for people that aren’t even there yet,” Tabasco said. “There’s no crime right now, we’d like to leave it that way. You’re opening up Pandora’s Box — we don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Davenport said he could go back to the area and look at it again.

Concerned about the water supply, Dell’Uomo also questioned the need for another convenience store 300 to 400 yards away from another one. A leak in an underground gas tank could mean a catastrophe, he said.

“That’s a 100,000 gas tank in the ground 300 yards from our main water supply,” Dell’Uomo said.

Davenport said the county can’t regulate how many gas stations are built when a property is zoned for it.

Frank Gostomski, who lives in Bel Air Acres on Route 1 south of the proposed development, said common sense needs to prevail.

“Common sense will tell you to know when it’s time to stop. I look around and this does not make any sense,” Gostomski, a lifelong resident of Harford County who has lived in Bel Air Acres for 40 years, said.

“It’s just an awful situation we’ve let develop. As someone who’s lived here their whole life, at some point you can’t undo what’s been done, but you know when it’s time to stop.”

Aumar Village

No one protested the Aumar Village residential plan proposed by developer Michael Euler, but the Department of Emergency Services rejected the street names he requested — Eulers Way, Rosebud Court and Jacqueline Court. Easy Street was acceptable.

Robin Wales of the county’s department of emergency services, said the National Emergency Numbers Association recommends avoiding family names of living people and politicians and that the county has had problems with personal road names.

The association also recommends avoiding names children and elderly could have problems spelling and saying.

In Harford, 13 roads begin with rose, Wales said, and when a road name sounds too much like another it should be changed.

Euler, who lives in Fallston, is proposing to build 25 single-family homes and 61 townhouses on 35 acres zoned B3-high intensity business and R2-residential.

Students will attend Youth’s Benefit Elementary, at 91 percent capacity, Fallston Middle, at 89 percent capacity, and Fallston High, at 63 percent capacity.

Harlan’s Glance

The committee reviewed a plan to subdivide one lot, about 2 acres zoned agriculture, from the rest of the property in the neighborhood.

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