The owner of the Super 8 by Wyndham Joppa hotel is seeking approval from Harford County to convert the facility near the intersection of Routes 40 and 152 into a center offering substance abuse treatment services.
A site plan for the 14.51-acre property, owned by U.S. Hospitality LLC of Edgewood, was presented to the county’s Development Advisory Committee during a meeting of the committee Wednesday morning at the county administration building in Bel Air.
The plan lists U.S. Hospitality as the developer as well as the property owner, and the converted facility would offer outpatient and inpatient treatment services, according to the document.
The hotel was previously known as the Lakeside Motel, said presenter Mitch Ensor, of the Bay State Land Services engineering and surveying firm in Forest Hill. The primary structure on the site was built in 1995, according to online state property records.
The property, which motorists can get to via access roads from Routes 40 and 152, includes a “significant pond” screened by vegetation and 5.5 acres of forested areas. Ensor said developers do not plan to disturb the natural resources on site.
The site plan calls for retaining the main two-story 21,000 square-foot building, which has 45 rooms, for the treatment center and razing other buildings on the property. In response to a question from DAC member Patrick Jones of the Harford Soil Conservation District, Ensor said that all impervious surfaces from those buildings, including their concrete foundation slabs, will be removed and workers will “seed and mulch those areas.”
The property also has lighting for the parking lot as well as downward-facing lights on the main building, according to Ensor.
“We would not propose to change any of the parking lot lighting or add any parking lot lighting, as that appears to be sufficient,” he said.
Ensor said some new lighting might be added to the doorways once the hotel building is repurposed.
Committee member Rich Zeller, of the State Highway Administration, said his agency does not object to the site plan as the existing accesses from both highways are “adequate.”
Two local residents expressed concern about the project during the public comment portion of the DAC hearing, however.
Judy Rose, of Joppa, asked what security measures will be in place to ensure visitors cannot bring any contraband in for patients, that people getting inpatient care remain in the facility and if there will be adequate buffers “to keep anyone encroaching one way or the other,” as the site is near the Harford County Sheriff’s Office Southern Precinct station, but it is also near a site slated for new development and schools off of Trimble Road.
“I have no problem with the location,” Rose said after the hearing. “I just want to make sure that it is secure for the neighborhood, the community, the patients and the staff.”
Edgewood resident Shelia Eggleston said her husband is a minister who works with people with substance abuse issues. Eggleston said she does not have a problem with a drug treatment center, but she asked, as a homeowner and Realtor, why it is being established in the Edgewood and Joppa area when there are already a number of inpatient treatment centers and methadone clinics in the same communities.
“I don’t want to see it as the face of Edgewood and Joppa on a main business corridor,” she said.
Eggleston said she has seen patients from one Edgewood methadone clinic asking motorists in the drive-through line at the McDonald’s next door for change, “like you’re somewhere in the hardened inner city.”
“It doesn’t help to uplift our community,” she said of establishing another substance abuse treatment center.
Joe Ryan, a former manager of Harford County’s Office of Drug Control Policy, also attended the DAC hearing, although he did not make any comments during the session. Ryan, who retired from the county government in early 2019, serves as board president for the nonprofit Addiction Connections Resource.
The organization has connected more than 1,000 people to substance abuse treatment programs, many of them outside of Harford County, over the past three years. Ryan said the facility planned for Joppa will be one of the treatment options recommended to ACR’s clients.
He also noted the Edgewood ZIP code is among the top areas in Harford County for drug overdoses.
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“We think it’s an asset for the county that will make people healthy again, so they can gain re-employment, so they can support themselves and their families,” Ryan said of the project.