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Aberdeen Mayor Patrick McGrady and City Council agreed to postpone a vote on annexing 80 acres west of the city along Gilbert Road.
Aberdeen Mayor Patrick McGrady and City Council agreed to postpone a vote on annexing 80 acres west of the city along Gilbert Road. (Aegis file/BSMG)

Aberdeen’s mayor and City Council are taking the time to gather more information before proceeding with a proposed annexation of more than 80 acres west of the city along Gilbert Road.

They agreed Monday to postpone taking a vote on a resolution to adopt the city’s plan to annex Siebert Farm (41.39 acres) and the Adams Property (38.93 acres), citing the Aberdeen Planning Commission’s ongoing review of updates to the city’s 2011 comprehensive plan — the current plan includes growth areas outside the city, one of which covers the annexation area — and the hiring of a contractor to conduct a land-use study of areas west of I-95.

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Councilwoman Sandra Landbeck made a motion to postpone a vote on Resolution 18-R-06 “until we get the input we need.”

Mayor Patrick McGrady clarified, during discussions ahead of the vote, that it would be postponed until a specific time in the future — he and his colleagues did not set a future time for a vote, though.

The vote passed, 4-1, with Councilman Steven Goodin casting the lone negative vote.

“I think we owe it to people to move this along,” Goodin said after the meeting.

He said that approving the resolution does not meant that the annexation has been finalized, but “it just means that we’re moving forward.”

Had the resolution been approved Monday, city leaders would then proceed with crafting an annexation agreement and then an amendment to the city charter, and both would need to be approved by the City Council, according to Planning and Community Development Director Phyllis Grover.

Grover described the annexation process, beginning last September with a community information meeting and then the Oct. 11 receipt of a petition from the property owners and contract purchasers seeking to become part of the City of Aberdeen.

he laid out the past, present and future steps when McGrady asked her to “ globally walk through” the annexation process. A number of people, including those who live in the city and just outside it in neighborhoods adjacent to the Siebert and Adams properties, had shared their concerns during the preceding public comment period about potential negative impacts from the annexation.

City officials, as well as the Aberdeen Planning Commission, recommend proceeding with the annexation and changing the zoning of the property — now designated by Harford County as agricultural — to integrated business district. Developers want to build more than 400 dwellings on the land, including single-family houses, villas and apartments.

Residents who live nearby along Gilbert Road and Locksley Manor Drive have expressed concerns during prior meetings about the impact on local traffic and the environment from having so many new dwellings, and they shared those concerns again Monday.

Debra Ehlers, a Locksley Manor Drive resident, urged city leaders to stick to the “low and medium-density” residential and neighborhood commercial development recommended for the Gilbert Planning Area in the 2011 comprehensive plan.

“If you were keeping that, I think it would be a positive annexation at some point down the road,” Ehlers said.

Bob Hartman, who lives on Paradise Road in the city limits, shared his concerns about how the city could recoup the cost of extending municipal services, such as water, sewer, trash pickup, police and fire protection, to the new residences.

He said that “it’s not fair to the residents here in Aberdeen” when many infrastructure upgrades needed within the city have been identified.

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Michael Hiob, a former councilman and current planning commission member, encouraged city leaders to support the resolution. He said, in response to Hartman’s concerns about costs, that “the devil is in the details” of the annexation, but he noted development in the Gilbert Planning Area and the adjacent Long/Heat area just northwest of the Route 22/I-95 interchange — both cited in the comprehensive plan — could help recoup costs.

“If you feel like it’s the right thing for the city, please move forward with it either this evening, or at your earliest convenience,” Hiob told the mayor and council.

Months of negotiations

Grover, who described the annexation process, said city leaders and the developers would negotiate how municipal services will be provided as they develop the annexation agreement, “which will take months.”

Landbeck noted “that’s the time we find out all that” information about costs and providing services.

Initial estimates indicate the new residences could generate $733,891 in annual property tax revenue, based on the current city real property tax rate of 68 cents per $100 of valuation, plus an additional $5.5 million in fees charged for utilities, connecting to the water and sewer system and school impacts, according to the resolution.

“There’s a long, long way to go with a lot of things to discover,” said Landbeck, who noted members of the public are correct to bring up issues that should be taken care of before a final decision is made, but “we’re not to that point yet.”

Grover also mentioned that a contract is scheduled to be issued this week for a firm to conduct a land-use study and develop a master plan for areas west of I-95, such as the Gilbert and Long/Heat areas outside the city and areas within the city around I-95 that are zoned for integrated business district. She said the contractor will have 90 days to present their final study to the mayor and council.

City leaders can participate in “numerous” public meetings during the land-use study period, Grover said.

McGrady said he and his colleagues “came to a verbal consensus” on “the path forward” on annexation during their “vision and goals session” Feb. 2. They decided to postpone taking action until they receive the results of the land use and master plan study.

Their decision became official with the vote to postpone taking action on the resolution Monday.

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