The citizens of Abingdon first learned about the Abingdon Woods project in January when a sign was posted along Abingdon Road about 100 feet from the parsonage of St. Francis DeSales. The project has since been renamed the Abingdon Business Park, I suspect because there will be very few trees left standing when this project is approved.
At the March 5 legislative session, Resolution 007-19 was introduced to the County Council and on March 6 it was added to the council website. Public hearing notices were placed in The Aegis on March 15 and 22. The citizens of Abingdon were unaware that Resolution 007-19 would be of any concern to us because of its misleading title “Edgewood Joppa Enterprise Zone Expansion.”
On April 1 we learned that Resolution 007-19 should be of great interest to us because, if passed, 337 acres would be annexed to the Edgewood Joppa Enterprise Zone. Of the 337 acres being considered for annexation, 326 of those acres comprise the Abingdon Business Park. That seems to indicate that only 11 acres are actually in Edgewood or Joppa.
Why should a property in Abingdon be annexed to the Edgewood Joppa Enterprise Zone? The property is not in the immediate Route 40 corridor where there already are at least seven vacant warehouse complexes. The proposed Abingdon Business Park is in the center of a residential area. The property stretches from Van Bibber Road to Abingdon Road.
The Abingdon Business Park is zoned Commercial Industrial. 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 project consisting of 2.4 million square feet of warehouse space, the largest of which is 1.05 million square feet and the second largest of which is 570,000 square feet possibly be considered “of a moderate scale and intensity?”
At the March 19 legislative session, Amy DiPietro was appointed unanimously by the County Council members to the Public Works Advisory Board. DiPietro is employed by Morris & Ritchie. Morris & Ritchie, in turn, is employed by the Harford Investors LLC, the owners of the 326 acres property destined to become the Abingdon Business Park. DiPietro has been the Morris & Richie employee who has presented plans for the business park at various community and county council meetings. I suppose there is a slim possibility that DiPietro’s appointment is just coincidental, but to the citizens of Abingdon it is a disturbing appointment that appears to be a conflict of interest.
We have been told again and again that the Abingdon Business Park is not a done deal. This is becoming more and more difficult to believe. At the April 2 legislative session there seemed to be three, possibly four, councilmen who might be inclined to vote against Resolution 007-19. Councilmen Beulah, Johnson and Woods directed thoughtful and insightful questions to Leonard Parrish, Director of the Office of Community and Economic Development. They asked, for instance, why it was imperative for the property to be annexed into the enterprise zone by April 15 since amendments are allowed twice a year on April 15 and October 15. They questioned the dire necessity of pushing through the resolution by the April 15 deadline since the Abingdon Business Park was being built on speculation with no contracted tenants yet.
At some point between the April 2 and 9 legislative sessions, at least one of the seven council members met with Leonard Parrish and Billy Boniface, the Director of Administration. The councilman remarked at the April 9 session that after that meeting he had changed his mind and decided to vote in favor of the annexation. Was the conversation with Boniface a subtle message from County Executive Barry Glassman that the Abingdon Business Park project and its annexation into the Enterprise Zone were going to proceed regardless of citizen concerns, that both were indeed written in stone? Only Councilman Andre Johnson voted against the annexation in support of his constituents.
The Abingdon Business Park and the Edgewood Joppa Enterprise Zone Expansion may be “business-friendly” but they certainly are not “constituent-friendly.” We, the citizens of Abingdon, have repeatedly made our concerns known. We do not want this monstrous project because it will destroy the wetlands, it will drive countless animals from their habitat, it will wreak havoc on the surrounding roads with additional traffic congestion, and it will cause residential home values to plummet.
Now that the Abingdon Business Park seems to be a certainty I have one more concern. Will the woman whose property is adjacent to the wetlands now be allowed to get her 8-by-8 shed? Harford County would not approve it because of its adverse impact on the wetlands. Isn’t it strange that an 8-by-8 shed would not be allowed because of concerns for the wetlands yet a 2.4 million square-foot warehouse complex apparently will be allowed? A huge complex seems to be getting the green light but an 8-by-8 shed is designated the real villain?
MaryLee A. Stritch