Judy Rose of Joppa asks questions Wednesday at the 396-home community proposed off Route 152 in Joppa, south of Route 40.
Judy Rose of Joppa asks questions Wednesday at the 396-home community proposed off Route 152 in Joppa, south of Route 40. (Erika Butler/The Aegis / Baltimore Sun)

Stormwater is already a problem in the Dembytown Road area in Joppa and one local resident is concerned about more development, particularly if nearly 400 more homes are built nearby.

Ten Oaks Realty LLC is proposing to build 396 homes — half single-family and half 26-foot villas with master bedrooms on the first floor — on nearly 200 mostly wooded acres west of Route 152 between Route 40 and Hanson Road. The community could also include 8,500 feet of walking trail as part of the near 130 acres of open space and 10 acres of active open space.

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A concept plan, which outlines where roads, homes and open space would be, for the community to be called Foster Branch at Ridgely Reserve was reviewed Wednesday by the Harford Development Advisory Committee. About a dozen people attended.

The four stormwater management ponds built for the nearby Rogers Ford development have “affected greatly” Dembytown and Sugar Hill roads at the very bottom of Dembytown, resident Karen Brooks said.

“It washes out our driveway,” Brooks said. “It’s never done that prior to Rogers Ford being built.”

Developers and engineers couldn’t tell her how many stormwater management ponds will be built for the community, “just numerous,” she said.

Brooks asked that the county look at the drainage at Dembytown and Sugar Hill before any new homes are built.

Ten Oaks Realty LLC is proposing to build 396 homes on nearly 200 mostly wooded acres west of Route 152 between Route 40 and Hanson Road. This map of the proposed development, Foster Branch at Ridgely Reserve, formerly known as Oakgrove, was presented during a June community input meeting. The concept plan was reviewed Aug. 7 by the Harford Development Advisory Committee.
Ten Oaks Realty LLC is proposing to build 396 homes on nearly 200 mostly wooded acres west of Route 152 between Route 40 and Hanson Road. This map of the proposed development, Foster Branch at Ridgely Reserve, formerly known as Oakgrove, was presented during a June community input meeting. The concept plan was reviewed Aug. 7 by the Harford Development Advisory Committee. (Handout)

Earlier plans

A previous development plan for that land, for a community called Oak Grove, was approved in 2004. It proposed 270 single-family lots on the property that was being developed by Crouse Construction.

The plats for the parcel were recorded in 2006, which meant the approved preliminary plan could move forward at any time, Cindy Mumby, spokesperson for Harford County government, said.

“Obviously, it did not,” Mumby said.

Were the lots not recorded, preliminary plan approval would have expired.

The county’s role is to make sure a development meets all applicable regulations, she said.

“If if does, it moves forward, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t,” Mumby said.

Developer Fred Sheckells of Ten Oaks Realty LLC said he still sees “a need for good, affordable energy-efficient housing” in Harford County and views the Interstate-95 area as a growth opportunity for the Joppa area.

He anticipates ground could be broken for this project in the spring of 2021 with about a five- to seven-year buildout, but that could change, he said.

Traffic impact

The number of cars on the roads this proposed development will produce is also a concern to some in the area.

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Adam Shellenbarger, vice president of Joppa Development and Heritage Corporation and pastor at Joppatowne Christian Church, acknowledged that while the neighborhood is not planned to connect to Trimble Road, it will generate additional traffic that will have an impact on it.

“Trimble is already close to being overburdened with traffic,” Shellenbarger, who lives in the 900 block of Rumsey Place, said. “With the development coming in, if there’s a connection to any development, it really can’t handle much more traffic. It would probably require widening, which I don’t think could possibly happen.”

He frequently has to avoid hitting pedestrians in the area — “there’s not even walkability on that road,” he said.

Judy Rose, who lives in the 1200 block of Old Mountain Road South, asked if the development could tie in to other developments to relieve some of the traffic on Trimble.

Shellenbarger questioned the required traffic impact studies and what developments they take into account, like other communities planned in the area.

Cheryl Banigan, chief of traffic and transportation planning, said developments have to be platted — which the two nearby are — to be accounted for in traffic studies. In the Foster Branch project, the other two plans would have been considered.

“Numerous [plans] have come in and never come to fruition and if we count their impact and they never happen, then we’re putting an additional burden on somebody else for traffic that’s never going to be there,” Banigan said.

‘What the public wants’

Benjamin Pycha, whose property in the 1000 block of Hanson Road backs up to the proposed development, is concerned in a broader scope that the county, when considering the development, is not taking into account the opinion of nearby residents who may not want the development.

“I’m not seeing an avenue for what the public wants; I don’t hear anyone mention what the public wants,” Pycha said. “I would think that would be the most heavily weighted thing regardless if it meets the requirements.”

Moe Davenport, chief of the development review section for Harford County, said the committee’s role is to ensure if meets the regulations as set forth by the code and zoning laws.

Residents can question specifics of a plan, such as Brooks did with regard to stormwater management.

The time to address possible use and/or zoning of a property is through the county’s master plan and zoning review process, which are done every eight years, Davenport said.

Pycha, who has lived in Joppa for two years, asked how residents can give their perspective.

“I would think ultimately your job is to fulfill the public’s wishes within reason, but I don’t see that being considered or getting our opinions documented,” Pycha said. “What options does the public have to show the public outcry is fiercely against this? We don’t feel it’s the right development at the right time at the right area.”

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