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Bel Air to host Oct. 1 public meeting on annexation of field adjacent to historic Liriodendron Mansion

A public hearing is scheduled for Oct. 1 in front of the Bel Air Planning Commission regarding the annexation of a piece of property adjacent to the Liriodendron Mansion in Bel Air.
A public hearing is scheduled for Oct. 1 in front of the Bel Air Planning Commission regarding the annexation of a piece of property adjacent to the Liriodendron Mansion in Bel Air.

The proposed annexation of a property adjacent to the historic Liriodendron Mansion into the town of Bel Air has some residents concerned about what’s planned for the undeveloped lot.

The public will be able to comment on the proposed annexation on Oct. 1 before the Bel Air Planning Commission. The meeting venue was moved to the Calvary Baptist Church at 206 E. Courtland Place due to the number of people expected to attend the meeting, said Bel Air Planning Director Kevin Small, to comply with social distancing requirements.

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The parcel, about 1.5 acres of open field between Catherine and Gordon streets, was bought by Liriod LLC. According to Maryland’s property search tool, the site was valued at $72,500, but it was purchased for $160,000 in March.

Liriod LLC is not in good standing, according to the state, because it has not filed an annual report for 2020. Its resident agent, Dennis W. Reimann, did not respond to a voicemail message in time for the publication of this article.

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Bel Air spokesperson Patti Parker said there were a number of rumors floating around social media about the site’s future. At this point, the town is only considering annexing the property.

“I cannot imagine anyone would approving building something that is not an asset to the community,” she said. “The conversation we are having right now is about annexation.”

Small said the property is currently zoned in the county for single family residences and townhomes, and town staff will recommend limits on what can be placed there.

“The town staff is recommending a condition on the annexation which would limit the development to only single family detached lots,” he said. “Condos, duplexes would not be permitted, assuming that condition goes through [the board of town commissioners].”

The Liriodendron Mansion was built as a summer residence for Dr. Howard Kelly in 1898, according to historical documents.. Harford County owns another house nearby, located at 500 W. Gordon St., just past the mansion’s stone markers and adjacent to the proposed annexation.

Small said Tuesday that it is unclear if the property up for annexation is on the National Registry of Historic Places and that the town would defer to county and state agencies to make that determination. He said information on whether or not the property is included in the registry is conflicting. The registry lists the Liriodendron as occupying 501 and 502 W. Gordon St., while the field in question does not have an address.

The property can still be annexed if it is on the registry, Small said.

Neighboring the property up for annexation is Jonathan West’s home on Gordon Street. When he heard news of the potential annexation, and saw the small notice sign posted under a pine tree away from the property, he made his own, painting additions to the notice sign reading “no way,” “stop it” and “really?" He said residents use the land as a place to convene socially distanced yoga classes, walk their dogs and simply enjoy the scenery.

“The one thing that would kill me the most is the light pollution it would cause,” he said. “It is still dark enough that you can see a star-filled sky.”

County spokesperson Cindy Mumby explained that annexation is driven by a municipality. If all residents of a property agree on annexation — or if the property has no residents — then a municipality can start the process. Bel Air informed the county that it was considering annexation of the property on Sept. 21. Small said Liriod approached the town and made a request for the property’s annexation.

“In this case, we play a different role because what is before the town is the decision about annexation and, in that case, [The Harford County Department of] Planning and Zoning’s role is to look at the zoning and look at the land use to see if it is compatible with the proposed zoning and land use if the property is annexed,” Mumby said.

The results of that assessment come in the form of a letter, which Mumby said is being prepared.

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The planning commission will review the annexation request to recommend it to the board of town commissioners at the October meeting. The ultimate decision to approve the annexation lies with them.

Editor’s note: Due to incorrect information provided by the Town of Bel Air, an earlier version of this article contained an error regarding whether the property being considered for annexation was part of the Liriodendron Mansion listing on the National Registry of Historic Places. This article has also been updated to clarify that the house owned by Harford County at 500 W. Gordon St. is not the same as the Liriodendron Mansion.

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