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Work is expected to begin next month on a new interactive sensory play area around the entrance to Rockfield Park in Bel Air.
Work is expected to begin next month on a new interactive sensory play area around the entrance to Rockfield Park in Bel Air. (Erika Butler)

Work is expected to begin next month on a new interactive sensory play area at Rockfield Park in Bel Air.

Town commissioners voted 4-0 Monday to award a contract for $121,000 to Fawn View Construction, a Pennsylvania-based company, to build the Chesapeake Sensory Plaza at the entrance to the playground on Churchville Road.

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Work should begin by mid-November and take a couple months, at the most, Planning Director Kevin Small said. Most of it should be finished before winter weather hits, though some smaller work could be left until the spring.

“The goal is to have it open for the next Kite Festival,” Small said. The Kite Festival is usually in early to mid-April.

The sensory plaza is being built with a $150,000 grant for design, permit and construction from the American Water Foundation administered by the National Recreation and Parks Association, Small said.

The Greater Bel Air Community Foundation donated $15,000 and about $16,000 of the town’s open space funds were used for the project. The Bel Air Recreation Council also donated two tables.

Other grant funding could be available to help cover the remaining cost of the project. If no other grant money is obtained, the budget could be adjusted to fund the project during the town’s mid-year financial review, Small said. The total cost is expected to be about $194,980.

The Chesapeake Sensory Plaza is a 5,000-square-foot nature play area children to promote natural water play, representing the Chesapeake Bay watershed area.

Manual hand pumps and water switches will start the flow of water into a 70-foot long channel traversing the length of the plaza.

The channel will feature a variety of mill wheels, lock gates, flaps, forks and collecting areas to form a highly interactive play experience.

Educational signs and illustrations will showcase the watershed’s delicate ecosystem as well as highlight the importance of water conservation and environmental stewardship practices.

“We are excited to bring this unique educational play space to Bel Air," Small said earlier this year. “As a Sustainable Community, we value the opportunity to teach local families the importance of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed area.”

The “water-centric park” will give residents of all ages the chance to enjoy, learn about and appreciate the environment, especially a critical natural resource — water —in a fun and engaging way, Laura Martin, president of the American Water Charitable Foundation, said.

Commissioners amends fees, development regulations

Also at Monday’s meeting, the commissioners agreed to amendments to the town’s fee schedule, which was last amended in June.

Among the changes are increases in the cost of a temporary use and occupancy permit, which will be a flat fee of $200 and good for 30 days. A temporary permit can be extended for up to 120 days at a cost of $200 per 30 days.

“The fee was woefully insufficient for the time the staff, personnel costs associated with issuing this fee,” Director of Administration Michael Krantz said.

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Fees were $30 for a temporary use and occupancy permit, $50 for a first re-inspection and $100 for a second and any subsequent re-inspections.

The town also agreed to add a $15 fee for each utility line update or relocation inspection after the first one. The cost of the initial inspection will remain at $35, Krantz said.

Homeowners requesting marking for their residential parcel are exempt from this fee.

Amendments to the town’s development regulations were also approved Monday.

The 1 ½-story limit of an accessory structure was eliminated by the amendment, which clarified that the accessory building height is restricted with regard to the portion of a gable or hip roof that may be included at 35 percent of the total height of the structure.

Definitions were also revised to provide for a clear meaning of the term “adjoining property” to coincide with the town’s practice for development review and to align with the policy of Harford County.

This will provide for notification of properties that share property lines, those that would share a property line except for intervening roads or easements and those properties that border land that is owned by or controlled by the development applicant, according to the legislation.

Free parking for the holidays

The commissioners agreed to suspend parking fees in the garage and on Main Street between Nov. 28 and Dec. 31.

“It’s customary for the town to offer free parking to facilitate and encourage people to patronize downtown restaurants and shops during the holiday season,” Krantz said.

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