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Harford's growth spiral [Editorial]

New single family home construction on Iron Gate Road in the Magness Mill neighborhood off of Tollgate Road in Bel Air Tuesday afternoon.
New single family home construction on Iron Gate Road in the Magness Mill neighborhood off of Tollgate Road in Bel Air Tuesday afternoon. (Matt Button / The Aegis / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Recently in this space, we warned that mushrooming growth has returned to Harford County, particularly in the greater Bel Air area – but not exclusively, and questioned if county leaders and leaders of the school system are prepared for the inevitable impacts of more houses and more people.

Much of what we wrote then has been confirmed by the recent fall update to the county’s Master Water and Sewer Plan adopted by the County Council on Oct. 9. Residential and commercial development has awakened from the doldrums of the 2007-2016 period and is expected to keep ramping up for the foreseeable future, based on the plan’s current statistics and future projections.

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Darryl Ivins, of the county’s Water and Sewer Division, told the County Council during his review of the plan on Oct. 2 that his agency closely monitors growth and makes and revises projections on future water usage in order to orderly plan for and build necessary new facilities.

The Harford County Council approves a resolution encompassing fall 2018 updates to its master water and sewer plan, updates that reflect increased development in greater Bel Air, as well as an extension of utilities from the City of Aberdeen to the Ashley Addiction Treatment facility.

Large sewer collection lines, pumping stations and water and sewer treatment facilities not only have to keep up with the growth, they essentially have to be planned to accommodate more of it in advance, or new construction and with it the local economy will grind to a standstill as they did in late 1970s and early 1980s and also to some extent in the 1990s and again in the mid-2000s.

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That’s the right thinking in theory, but not always achievable in practice, because all these utilities cost money to build and then to maintain and are usually constructed with borrowed money that eventually has to be paid back. The same holds true for schools and roads.

Parents of students at two Harford County public schools whose replacements have been deferred in the last decade pleaded their cases for new schools Monday night.

We strongly believe some school facilities in the central part of the county are already stressed and others are soon to be, as are many of the main collector roads. Funding for new schools and better roads isn’t totally a county government responsibility – the state is involved in funding both, particularly the main roads – but Harford County has learned from past experience that the state can’t be counted upon to respond to our needs in a timely manner, especially if it involves millions of dollars for badly needed infrastructure.

Yes, good planning is essential, but so is a recognition by our elected officials that growth has its limits and can’t go along unchecked until we reach the point of overcrowded schools, unbearably congested roads and not enough water to drink.

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