'Constant Friendship' historical marker incorporated in plans for Abingdon commercial development

Traffic study still under review for Abingdon commercial development

The Constant Friendship historical marker at the intersection of Box Hill South Parkway and Route 924 in Abingdon will remain in place along the highway, although it will have some neighbors in the form of commercial buildings, according to development plans expected to be approved by Harford County.

The marker, which describes the early settlement of the area during colonial days, is denoted with a vertical hash mark on the site plan for four commercial buildings, including a restaurant with a drive-through lane, car wash, auto repair shop and a multi-use retail center, that was presented to the county's Development Advisory Committee Wednesday morning.

Gerry Powell, of the Bel Air engineering firm Frederick Ward Associates, presented the site plan and a preliminary plan, which covers subdividing the 7.22-acre property into three lots, to the committee.

The Constant Friendship marker was not a topic of discussion during Wednesday's DAC hearing. Powell said after a community input meeting in June that the status of the marker was being investigated, "and it will be protected and/or it will be addressed if necessary."

The marker indicates that Col. Thomas White, "largest colonial landowner in this part of Maryland" at the time, acquired in 1761 the land that would become the Constant Friendship section of Abingdon.

About eight people attended the community meeting in June; they expressed little concern about the marker, but they did have concerns about greater traffic and having additional commercial development on a parcel that is near residential communities, as well as the sprawling Boulevard at Box Hill shopping center.

No one from the public attended Wednesday morning's DAC hearing. Members of the public can give comments during such hearings.

The developer, Box Hill South Commercial LLC, of Edgewood, is also listed as the property owner on the site plan. The site is zoned B3, or general business district.

Box Hill South Commercial, is affiliated with the Bob Ward Companies, the master developer of Boulevard at Box Hill.

Rich Zeller, who represents the State Highway Administration, said his agency is reviewing a traffic impact study submitted by the developer.

The SHA does not object to the plan to subdivide the site, because "the existing right of way of Maryland [Route] 924 appears to be sufficient to accommodate future widening along this frontage," Zeller said.

With regard to the site plan, which lays out how the property will be developed, Zeller said the SHA "will defer specific comments" regarding improvements to Route 924, access to the site and any off-site highway improvements until the review of the study is completed.

Eric Vacek, of the Department of Planning and Zoning, said the county, which also reviews the traffic study, has requested revisions to the plans related to traffic.

The developers plan to create two "full-access" entry points to the site from Route 924, according to Alex Rawls, the planning department's transportation planner.

Rawls said later that county planners want the first access point, which is closest to Box Hill South Parkway, to be changed to allow only right-hand turns in and out, and the second point that is farther north can remain full access.

He said the developers should also revise their mitigation measures for a third access point from Box Hill South.

"We don't believe it's going to work, so we're asking them to re-look at it and see if they can come up with another form of mitigation," Rawls said.

Mike Rist, who represents the county's Department of Public Works on the committee, said sidewalks must be built along the edge of the site and connect with existing sidewalks to ensure commercial access.

Vacek said the site plan must show where vegetated buffers will be planted around the retail building and the restaurant, which would be 11,775 square feet and 1,723 square feet, respectively.

The car wash would be 10,433 square feet and the auto shop 8,882 square feet, according to the site plan.

The developer also has submitted plans to the planning department indicating how impacts on wooded areas of the property will be mitigated and how lighting for the commercial buildings will be controlled.

Vacek said lighting must be controlled "so the light intensity does not adversely affect the adjacent properties."

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