Aberdeen continues its drive to annex land west of the city, following the mayor and City Council’s unanimous approval Monday of a resolution to annex more than 9 acres off of Long Drive.
“We’ll proceed along the steps toward annexation,” Mayor Patrick McGrady said after he and the council voted to annex land owned by Presbyterian Home of Maryland Inc.
The Adler Corporation, of Columbia, is listed as the contract purchaser of the acreage, with plans to construct 7,000 square-foot and 12,000 square-foot commercial buildings, accessible via Long Drive, according to the annexation petition.
The mayor and council voted 4-1 in late August in favor of annexing two parcels, known as the Adams property and Seibert Farm, which comprise about 80 acres along Gilbert Road. The zoning for that land will change from agricultural to Integrated Business District, and it is slated for construction of about 400 residential units.
The Presbyterian Home property, which is a mix of forested areas and wetlands, are in roughly the same area as the Adams and Seibert properties, and IBD zoning has been requested there as well. The land is northwest of Long Drive, across from several single-family houses between Gilbert Road and Long Drive.
Attorney Joseph Snee Jr. of Bel Air, who is representing the petitioners, gave a detailed description of the annexation plans during a public hearing before the mayor and council Oct. 7. The 9 acres is adjacent to more than 100 acres also owned by Presbyterian Home — the larger parcel was annexed by Aberdeen in 2004, Snee noted.
The two commercial structures planned for the smaller parcel will be separated by an “aisle drive” which connects to the adjacent 100.7-acre parcel to provide access to future development there, Snee said.
Presbyterian Home’s property is in a planning area called Long/HEAT that is northwest of the Route 22/I-95 interchange and has been designated for growth in the City of Aberdeen’s comprehensive plan, according to Snee.
“The most important thing is, the future land use recommendation, which is a priority area recommended for the future growth of the City of Aberdeen,” he said.
Snee said the Integrated Business District zoning would be consistent with other properties in the planning area that already have the IBD designation.
The proposed development “will have no impact on schools whatsoever,” since both buildings are commercial, Snee said. It will be served by the city police department and the volunteer Aberdeen Fire Department, as well as the nearby Level Volunteer Fire Company. The land will also have city water and sewer service, although the developer will pay to connect the property to the municipal infrastructure. Trash service will be provided by a private hauler, and the developer will commission a traffic study to determine how area roads will be affected.
“It remains to be seen what traffic improvements need to be made at the site or to off-site intersections,” Snee said.
No one from the community made any comments during the public hearing.
Harford County has zoned the land for agricultural use, although the county’s master plan includes a designation of mixed-office use for the area, which is “not substantially different” from the densities and uses allowed in Aberdeen’s IBD zones, according to the annexation petition.
The annexation plan has been reviewed by the Aberdeen Planning Commission, which recommended approval by the mayor and City Council, as well as the Maryland Department of Planning and Harford County’s health, public works and planning and zoning departments, according to Phyllis Grover, director of planning and community development for the city.
However, the proposed IBD zoning is “inconsistent with the County’s Land Use Plan and will exceed 50% of the density limitation for annexations specified in” state law, Bradley Killian, the county’s planing and zoning director, stated in an Oct. 1 letter to Grover.
Maryland planning officials also cited the density issue related to IBD zoning in a Sept. 30 letter to the mayor; officials recommended the city seek a waiver from the county to ensure the property can be developed in the next five years, with “land uses substantially different than those authorized uses in accordance with applicable county zoning,” according to the letter from Charles Boyd, director of planning coordination.
McGrady said it is up to the developer or property owner to request a waiver from the Harford County Council to develop sooner than five years. The five-year waiting period kicks in if the zoning requested for an annexed property yields a higher density than the existing zoning.
The county’s public works department also recommended the city annex Long Drive along with the land and take ownership over from the county. County officials have recommended this during prior annexations of land west of the city.
“With each new annexation request, this transfer of ownership seems to be increasingly sensible,” public works officials wrote in a Sept. 13 letter to the county’s planning and zoning department. “Long Drive and the homes along Gilbert Road are becoming an enclave within the City of Aberdeen’s corporate limits.”
Presbyterian Home announced plans in 2003 to build a continuing care retirement community in Aberdeen, but those plans were canceled in 2011 when the organization could not reach an agreement with municipal leaders on tax breaks. It is now preparing to develop Carsins Run at Eva Mar, a continuing care retirement community with more than 200 units, off of Route 543 east of Bel Air.