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Harford County Council to vote on Fallston Village zoning appeal

The expansion of Fallston Village Center will have to be voted on by the Harford County Council before it can proceed and add 51,000 square feet to the complex, which would be used for a daycare and office or retail space, according to documents filed with the Harford County Zoning Board of Appeals.

The issue: the property’s footprint slightly overlaps a floodplain.

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The shopping complex — owned by an Arlington, Virginia, company — is composed of five structures housing a movie theater, liquor store, restaurants, a gym and other shops. But one lot on the north end of the property by Route 1 has some overlap with a 100-year floodplain, multiple county officials said at a Feb. 11 Zoning Board of Appeals hearing.

Bill Rhodunda, an attorney representing the shopping center, said the lot has not flooded before — there is currently a bank on it — and that the company is seeking to replace it with a car wash, which would be smaller than the existing structure.

Crucially, Rhodunda said, his client is not seeking any variances, special dispensations to change where a building can be constructed on a parcel of land. The company, he said, is only seeking to shift the structure’s construction within the area it is already permitted to be built.

“With the floodplain being there, there may need to be some movement of the building,” he said at the Feb. 11 hearing. “We are not seeking any variances whatsoever.”

Councilman Robert Wagner had reservations about the plan because of that ambiguity. He noted that the company had asked for “flexibility” in constructing a new building on the lot, which does not mesh with cut-and-dry zoning regulations.

“We do not allow for a whole lot of, if you will, flexibility,” he said at the hearing. “We have done some things in the past that we did not indicate flexibility, but we ended up with some product we really did not intend to have on that parcel. When you start throwing flexibility into it … it sort of gives you carte blanche.”

Beyond that, Wagner said the entrance to the shopping center did not have a traffic light, which could prove hazardous on Route 1. Rhodunda said a traffic study has already commenced per the county’s zoning guidelines. That is an issue typically addressed later in the process, he said.

Wagner and Council President Patrick Vincenti did not return requests for comment.

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County Council Attorney Charles Kearney said that the county’s charter prohibits councilmembers from discussing open cases like these publicly.

At the hearing, Vincenti said the vote would be delayed a week. A vote was not scheduled on the council’s Feb. 18 agenda.

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