As someone who is a frequent visitor to downtown Bel Air, walking down Main Street, taking in the Christmas decorations in December, and visiting the stores and sandwich shops there for some TLC from the owners — one of whom always manages to remember my first name and enfolds me in her arms every time I visit — I am well aware of Bel Air’s small-town charm.
Therefore, I really appreciated Patrick Wallis’s eloquent letter (”Bel Air makeover turning our town into Towson,” Jan. 18, 2023) about developers who have swooped on Bel Air to build Hickory Flats, a four-story contemporary apartment complex with mostly high-end apartments and presumably no low income housing units. Wallis rightly suspects this will lead Bel Air away from its small-town charm.
Trees will be torn down and memorialized in a photograph when Hickory Flats rises from the rubble of our life-sustaining oxygen sources. In his letter, Wallis says development of some sort has to occur for a town to survive. To me, things seem peachy just the way they are in downtown Bel Air.
Wallis, nevertheless, is right to argue that an apartment complex where builders are compelled to cut trees to make way for boxes of glass and concrete, is not the development Bel Air needs. As for the facelift planned for the buildings in downtown Bel Air, I pity the current small business folks in those buildings who will have to suffer the changes. This is a money-making project for the developers, a massive migraine for the small business owners and it is, as usual, a wipeout for the trees that must go, so developers can dance on their roots, hands full of brick and mortar.
Truly there is something wrong with the brains of folks who will kill trees for profit. With climate change arriving in full force, we should conserve trees, not chop them down. If developers have their way, concrete will be king and many downtown areas will flood and their small businesses will be wiped out, like in Maryland’s Ellicott City.
If this is the beginning of the end for small town Bel Air, as Wallis sees it, and if other ideas like Hickory Flats take off in Bel Air, Ellicott City’s fate might be Bel Air’s fate too, and all that developers would do then is laugh all the way to their banks while girding themselves for their next projects — most probably, high-end beach houses where waves flood the streets at high tide.
It is up to Bel Air’s planning commission to protect Bel Air’s downtown from rapacious builders and developers who would change the aesthetics of our small town and have it, slowly but surely, be Towson. It seems, they are failing in their duty.
Still not the last word on Bennett saga
So the Jacob Bennett saga with the Harford County Council continues as we learned on Jan. 11 that the “county filed its motion for preliminary injunction on Dec, 28, seeking to remove Bennett from the council...” (”Jacob Bennett files counter motion for preliminary injunction against Harford County,” Jan. 10, 2023). That implies Bennett was actually legally on the Council — but wait — he was never on the payroll and never allowed to participate in any meetings. One just has to wonder how many more missteps Harford County will make before this crazy issue is resolved. You just can’t make this stuff up.
Robert C. Rassa