Bel Air town officials believe they have reached a workable compromise that will allow trash collection companies to continue picking up at many businesses and schools late at night and early in the morning, while still ensuring nearby residential areas won't experience the noise associated with such activities.
The Board of Town Commissioners passed a series of amendments to the town Development Regulations at a town meeting earlier this week, one of which seeks to address what town officials say were complaints from some residents about late night and early morning noise. The vote was 4-0, with Mayor Susan Burdette absent.
The existing regulations had banned refuse or recycling removal, compaction or other similar operations between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. within a residential zone or within 500 feet of a residentially zoned property.
As introduced last month, the regulation would have been modified to restrict all such operations, regardless of location, if within 500 feet of a residentially zoned property. The hours ban would have been modified to end at 6:30 a.m.
At a public hearing on March 19, representatives of trash collection companies expressed concerns with their ability to serve schools and many downtown businesses before students, pedestrians and workday traffic is out on the streets and sidewalks. One resident also spoke during the hearing, complaining that trash pickups at a nearby church had awoken him at 3 a.m.
What finally passed Monday keeps the existing hours ban at 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., but also modifies where collections can occur to exempt schools from the hours limit, Planning Director Kevin Small explained after the new regulation was adopted.
Small said wording was changed to exempt properties that are zoned residential, but are being used for non-residential uses, if they are 500 feet away from the nearest residence. This was mainly done, he said, to address the swath of the Bel Air High and Middle schools and Homestead-Wakefield Elementary School campus which is zoned residential, but abuts the Route 1/Baltimore Pike commercial strip.
As a result, he said, most businesses on the south side of Route 1 can have their trash pickups continue at any time of day or night – the trash companies prefer to pick up after businesses close and before they open the next morning – however, some businesses on the north side of the Route 1 would still be subject to pickup hours restrictions.
For example, he said, Harford Mall's trash can be picked up at any time, but the Bel Air Town Center, which is across Route 24 from the mall, could not be picked up between 10 p.m. and 7 p.m. because there are a number of residences in close proximity to the rear of that property.
"Actually," he said, "the situation with Bel Air Town Center wouldn't change from the existing – they couldn't pick up there at night or early morning. There are other locations on the north side [of Route 1] that are in the same situation."
Small said a number of churches around town will still have to get their trash picked up between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. That will also apply to St. Margaret Church and its adjoining school, he said, a situation they intend to monitor.
The commercial trash collection modifications were among several changes to the development regulations proposed by the town Planning Commission.
Other changes adopted Monday included modifications to setbacks in industrial districts, modification of time limits on filing record plats and modification of some multifamily housing parking regulations.
In noting the "complexity" of the body of regulations, Commissioner Patrick Richards offered his thanks to the planning department staff and planning commission members for their efforts in writing and disseminating the revisions.