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The Aegis Opinion

Proposed Abingdon development not in line with 1982 zoning regulations | READER COMMENTARY

The citizens of Abingdon first learned about the Abingdon Business Park in January 2019 when a barely legible public notice appeared in the brush along Abingdon Road. We have been vehemently opposing the project ever since.

We learned that the 326 wooded acres known as Abingdon Woods were zoned CI (Commercial/Industrial) in 1982. Abingdon Woods has non-tidal wetlands, a 100-year flood plain and the Ha-Ha Branch, which feeds Otter Point Creek, which feeds the Bush River, which feeds the Chesapeake Bay.

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According to the Harford County Zoning Classifications, a Commercial/Industrial District is “intended for industrial, office, and business uses of a moderate scale and intensity.” How can a mammoth mega-million-square-foot project possibly be considered “of a moderate scale and intensity?”

Since the zoning was approved in 1982, why aren’t the developers required to comply with the 1982 standards for warehouses? Huge complexes of the proportion Abingdon Business Park’s developers have proposed were unheard of when the zoning change was made.

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I have yet another concern about the 1982 zoning change to CI. Why did Harford County allow residential developments near or adjacent to a property with CI zoning? The developments of Philadelphia Station, Abingdon Reserve, Pomeroy Estates, Autumn Run and Medley Estates were all built in 1988 or later. Potential buyers of homes in these developments should have been told that each development was in very proximity to a 326-acre property zoned Commercial/Industrial. Perhaps these developments would not even have come into existence if Harford County had informed potential buyers.

Harford County would not have been able to collect taxes from all the residents in these developments. Now the property values in these developments will plummet. Could Harford County be held responsible for failure to disclose the zoning? Is a class action suit against the county feasible?

Initially, in the February 2019 Forest Conservation Report for Abingdon Business Park, 85 specimen trees were identified for preservation in Abingdon Woods. Specimen trees have circumferences indicating that they are at least 100 years old. The developers immediately requested a waiver to be able to destroy 58 of those 85 specimen trees.

Now, in 2022, the developers are claiming only 49 specimen trees were identified and that they have destroyed 29 of them. They have promised that they will not eliminate the remaining 20 specimen trees. But if 85 specimen trees existed in 2019 and in 2022 only 49 specimen trees have been identified, this means that 36 specimen trees have somehow disappeared over the course of 3½ years.

On June 29, the developers got approval for a grading permit. Days later, on July 5, the destruction of Abingdon Woods began in earnest. I personally witnessed the destruction of one specimen tree along Abingdon Road a few days later. At least 12 other trees had to be destroyed in order for the equipment to get close enough to destroy that 80-to-100-foot majestic oak tree.

The first step in the destruction of Abingdon Woods occurred in 1982 when Harford County allowed the zoning change to Commercial/Industrial. The next step was when the County Council voted almost unanimously to include the property in the Edgewood Joppa Enterprise Zone. Its inclusion allows the developers to take advantage of many tax incentives. Also, inclusion in an Enterprise Zone somehow made it possible to circumvent protections that were in place to prevent the degradation of Otter Point Creek.

Also, I do not understand why the Abingdon Business Park requires an access/egress to and from Abingdon Road. Abingdon Road is incapable of handling any more traffic. There is no easy access to I-95 from Abingdon Road. There is only one lane in either direction. Fire engines are physically unable to make a right turn from Route 7 to Abingdon Road. They must cut through Philadelphia Station and Abingdon Reserve when they return to the station. Residents of Philadelphia Station and Abingdon Reserve certainly are not going to tolerate tractor-trailers doing the same thing.

The developers are promising to make changes to the Abingdon Road/Route 7 intersection to alleviate the problem, but Abingdon Road itself is not designed to handle tractor-trailers 24/7. (It is interesting to note that most, if not all, of the traffic studies seemed to have been conducted at 11 a.m., the time of day when there is the least amount of traffic on Abingdon Road.)

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It seems almost certain that the Abingdon Business Park is a done deal. But we, the citizens of Abingdon and the citizens throughout all of Harford County, fought the project to the best of our ability.

Perhaps we should have realized it was set in stone when County Executive Barry Glassman refused to respond to our requests for a meeting for 3½ years. If he cares so little about the concerns of the citizens of Harford County, it seems highly doubtful that he will be capable of caring for the concerns of the citizens in the 22 other counties in Maryland and Baltimore City if he manages to get elected comptroller of Maryland.

In the future, I propose that all public notices should be required to be at least 3-feet-by-5-feet or as large as the largest sign allowed for any political candidate so that the signs can be easily read when riding by in a vehicle. That way citizens are not endangering their lives by stopping their vehicles along the side of a road to read barely legible writing on a public notice that will no doubt irreparably impact their lives negatively.

MaryLee A. Stritch

Abingdon


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