The Bel Air town commissioners will consider arguments made during a public hearing Monday night for and against adjusting commercial trash pickup times before voting on an ordinance that includes a slew of changes to town development regulations.
Commissioner Patrick Richards made a motion to postpone taking a vote on Ordinance 783-18 to provide “some additional time for research and discussion” among the five commissioners.
Three people spoke about a proposed change that would prohibit trash and recycling removal, compacting or “similar operations” between 10 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. throughout the town.
“I think the intent was to simply make [regulations] less complex and certainly to protect the residential areas, but I think with many of these situations you often have to be careful of unintended consequences,” Richards said.
Regulations prohibit trash and recycling pickup between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., if the location is in a residential area of town, or up to 500 feet from a residentally-zoned property. The change, if approved, could affect private haulers who serve any non-residential property such as a business, church or school and make their pickups well before 6:30 a.m.
Jason Rice, operations manager for Waste Industries in Street, expressed concerns about safety for employees of his company and other waste haulers operating in Bel Air, who would be working amid early-morning traffic.
“Different days of the week, after 6:30 in the morning, you’re gong to be putting six or eight rather large trash trucks out and around the town,” he said.
Rice noted how challenging it will be for drivers to see oncoming vehicles or pedestrians while backing out of a property. He said haulers working behind large retail stores, such as those in the Tollgate Marketplace shopping center off of Route 24, could be blocked by delivery trucks if servicing trash receptacles after 6:30 a.m.
He also said drivers “don’t have the vision” to see oncoming traffic after sunrise.
“When you’re there a little earlier, it’s dark, you can see headlights coming from the side,” Rice said. “Later in the day you don’t have those opportunities.”
Christine McPherson, executive director of the Bel Air Downtown Alliance, expressed concerns about safety for downtown pedestrians, such as students walking to school or employees walking to work, who might have to navigate trash trucks after 7 a.m.
She said local business owners have been speaking out about the proposed changes to trash pickup times, too.
“I think there’s a growing concern about how that might impact business in downtown Bel Air,” she said.
McPherson encouraged commissioners to maintain the distance requirement for residential properties.
“Some of our downtown corridor is definitely zoned business and not residential,” she said.
Robert McNutt, a resident of the 100 block of McCormick Street, recalled a recent incident in which he was awakened at 3:10 a.m. by the repeated banging of a Dumpster being emptied.
“It sounded like a gun went off,” he recalled.
McNutt, a member of the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company, said he could not tell where the noise originated — Saint Margaret Parish is the closest non-residential entity.
“It was like six times and 3:10 in the morning, that’s all I can remember,” he said.
Commissioner Brendan Hopkins encouraged McNutt to contact the town about the noise, “because that’s something that should have been covered under our current ordinance,” regarding distance from residential properties.
Hopkins said the commissioners could review the issues brought up at the public hearing during their next work session, which is March 27, and vote on Ordinance 783-18 at their next meeting, April 2, according to the town website.
Ordinance 783-18 covers a number of changes to the development regulations as recommended by the Bel Air Planning Commission.
The proposed changes came out of significant amendments made to development regulations in 2017 as part of the prior year’s Comprehensive Plan. Those listed in the current ordinance are meant to “address clarifications and errors” remaining in the amendments, according to the text.
Recommended changes affect trash pickup times, as well as parking lot design, communications antennae, outdoor dining and promotional events, temporary storage containers, temporary and permanent signs in residential and commercial areas, panhandle lot calculations, group home and community shelter regulations and industrial district setbacks, according to the ordinance.