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Company seeks annexation of field near Liriodendron Mansion in Bel Air for second time

A company is seeking the annexation of a 1.46-acre field near the Liriodendron Mansion in Bel Air after its first bid to bring the property within town limits failed last year.

The company, Liriod LLC, seeks to build two homes on the property between Catherine and Gordon streets after its first bid to annex the field into town for the construction of three homes failed by a narrow vote of the Bel Air Board of Town Commissioners in December.

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Should the property not be annexed into Bel Air town limits, Liriod could still proceed with developing it under Harford County’s regulations, the company’s registered agent Dennis Reimann said at a virtual Tuesday work session of the town commissioners.

But because the county would require the company construct a public road leading to the development, which would force it to fit more houses on the property to make up for the sunk cost of building the road, Reimann said. Four homes would need to be constructed for Liriod to make its money back, he said.

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“The cost of doing that is astronomical, so we would have to stick a bunch of houses in there,” Reimann said. “It appears that it is definitely doable, but we would have to cut down a whole bunch of trees, we would have a bunch of impervious surface.”

The property’s zoning classification in Harford County requires 7,500 square feet of space for a plot, while Bel Air zoning code requires 10,000 square-feet per plot. It follows that fewer homes could be squeezed onto built on the property under Bel Air’s zoning code.

Signs of protest over property annexation at the Liriodendron Mansion in Bel Air hang on a tree at the Gordon Street entrance to the mansion Thursday, March 11, 2021. A company is seeking the annexation of a 1.46-acre field near the Liriodendron Mansion in Bel Air after its first bid to bring the property within town limits failed last year.
Signs of protest over property annexation at the Liriodendron Mansion in Bel Air hang on a tree at the Gordon Street entrance to the mansion Thursday, March 11, 2021. A company is seeking the annexation of a 1.46-acre field near the Liriodendron Mansion in Bel Air after its first bid to bring the property within town limits failed last year. (Matt Button / The Aegis)

The virtual meeting drew town residents who were displeased that the company would make another attempt at annexation, the first of which area residents criticized as it was passing through the Bel Air Planning Commission on its way to eventual rejection by the five-member board.

“[T]his frankly sounds like extortion — give me my 2 lots, even though the community is opposed, or I’ll build a nasty road and MORE houses,” Bel Air resident Gina Kazimir wrote at the meeting.

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The company is effectively submitting a petition to begin talks with the town on what an annexation could look like, subject to approval by the board of commissioners, Director of Planning Kevin Small said.

The decision to approve the petition is up to the board, Small explained, which sets its own agenda. If approved, the submission to the board would begin the process of the town and company discussing terms of a possible annexation, which could eventually proceed to a vote on the annexation.

“This has to start at this point and then all the detail comes in later as the process moves forward,” Small said. “Everybody will get a chance to comment at a public hearing ... This is the beginning, not the end.”

Small said there was an existing connection for sewer services in the lot and that, by right, the company could build a single home there without any need for a public hearing.

The property is privately held and was never offered for sale to the town, though it was offered to the county, which declined the purchase. It has also never been classified as green space or park space.

Additionally, the zoning classification it would fall under in town does not permit condos or duplexes, but the county’s zoning classification permits townhouses in units of four, according to the county’s planning and zoning department.

When the original annexation was denied in December, Bel Air Commissioner Patrick Richards proposed that the development on the site be restricted to two homes instead of the three that were included in a preliminary plan to the planning commission. When that motioned failed, he proposed the annexation be denied wholesale.

At the October planning commission meeting, Liriod’s attorney Bradley Stover said there was precedent for buildings outside Bel Air’s limits to receive town water and sewer service.

Because the planning commission already recommended the annexation to go forward at a previous meeting, Small said the town staff did not see the need for it to go through that process again, but it could if the town commissioners desire it.

Citizens will be afforded an opportunity for public comment if the process continues.

Liriod LLC purchased the site in March. According to Maryland property records, the site was valued at $72,500, but it was purchased for $160,000. Liriod LLC is composed of multiple smaller LLCs, Reimann said at a prior meeting.

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