Plans for two commercial development projects in Joppa and Fallston that have raised previous concerns in their respective communities were reviewed by Harford County and state agencies last week, while a proposal for more houses in Abingdon is likewise raising hackles in that community.
Royal Farms is proceeding with its plan to renovate and revamp its convenience store and gas station at Franklinville Road and Route 152 (Mountain Road) in Joppa, a project that has raised environmental protection worries.
The prospect of shops and more fast food outlets planned for a busy Fallston intersection has renewed concerns about traffic safety in the heavily congested Route 1 corridor.
And, the likelihood of more traffic to come from more houses in a heavily developed residential area, near the county's Abingdon Water Treatment Plant, drew fire from neighboring residents.
Speaking during a review by the Harford County Development Advisory Committee in Bel Air on Nov. 20, Morita Bruce, of the Friends of Harford organization — a local environmental and land use advocacy group — said she is concerned about an increase in the amount of underground fuel storage on the Royal Farms property and the plan to move the tanks and piping to the northern side of the property, closer to neighboring homes, which are on well water.
"I believe that these changes pose an unacceptable risk to the nearby homeowners," Bruce said.
Amy DiPietro of Morris & Ritchie Associates Inc., the engineering firm which developed the Royal Farms plans, explained why the canopy covering the gas pumps, as well and the underground fuel storage tanks and the dispensers themselves, would be moved to the northern portion of the property, behind the convenience store. The existing fuel area is in front of the store on the 1.69-acre property.
DiPietro said separating the convenience store and gas customers could "alleviate a lot of the existing site circulation issues."
Bruce asked committee members to "impose some conditions" before the plan is approved, such as requiring monitoring wells every 10 feet along the northern border of the site to detect any leaks and contamination heading toward nearby homes.
The store is in an area not served by public water and sewer, but the Joppa Royal Farms predates a county law that bans any new gasoline sales facilities in areas not served by public water.
During a public input meeting on the Royal Farms proposal held in Abingdon in October, Jeff Bainbridge, a Royal Farms representative, said existing underground tanks will be removed and the new fuel dispensing system will have the latest technology such as double-walled tanks, a monitoring system and sumps, according to a written report of the meeting prepared by the applicant and submitted to the county.
The report also states two people attended what was described as an "informal" session and one asked if a traffic light would be installed at the Route 152 and Franklinville intersection; DiPietro said there would be no traffic light.
Bainbridge, according to the report, said the store would be closed for approximately six months during the reconstruction, which the company expects to start in the fall of 2014.
The Development Advisory Committee also reviewed plans for a retail store and two restaurants on 1.42 acres zoned B3 at the three-way intersection of Route 1 (Belair Road) and Milton Avenue in Fallston.
The site, bordered by Route 1, Milton Avenue and West Grove Avenue, was once home to an office building that was demolished in the early 2000s.
Milton Avenue LLC, listed as the developer and contract purchaser, is also seeking county approval to subdivide the property into three lots, one for each business.
"We wanted to be here today to express the significant concerns that we have about the traffic patterns that will result from this development," said Jamison White, vice president of the neighboring Fallston Crossing subdivision.
White was one of four people who live in Fallston Crossing — a community adjacent to the property slated for development and also served by Milton Avenue — who expressed their concerns about the proposal.
He acknowledged the site, which he called "kind of an eyesore," would be developed and will "probably look better than it does now."
White said his main concern is the "solitary means of egress" onto Milton Avenue. Under the plan, traffic for the proposed businesses will only be able to come in and out via Milton Avenue; there won't be access from Route 1.
State and county officials will not allow access from Route 1 because of the "limited sight distance" as drivers approach from the highway. A Royal Farms store is directly across Route 1 from the end of Milton Avenue. The store has two entrances from Route 1.
"We've witnessed firsthand, I know everyone here has witnessed firsthand, just how quickly Milton Avenue has become a thoroughfare between Harford Road and Belair Road as people try to cut the corner on 152 and avoid the lights," White said.
He was concerned that people who patronize the store and restaurants would be forced to drive through his community toward Route 147 and Route 152 to avoid traffic tie ups at Milton and Route 1 when leaving.
Tricia Vaughn, who also lives in Fallston Crossing, said she does not allow her children to play outside often "just because the traffic is all very heavy."
Committee members called for a review of the traffic study prepared for the project and asked the developers to provide more information.
"We'll find out after we review the traffic study whether that access would even be allowed, but certainly if it doesn't meet sight distance requirements we wouldn't allow the entrance," said Rich Zeller, who represents the State Highway Administration on the committee.
Committee members fielded an audience question on why other businesses on Belair Road are allowed to have a right-turn access to their properties from the highway.
The committee also reviewed a plan to subdivide 21 residential lots on 13.9 acres along Peverly Run Road, east of the intersection with Abingdon Road, on land between the current ends of Peverly Run and Randall Drive in Abingdon.
The site in question is on the far eastern end of the former Spencer's sand and gravel mining property, north of the water treatment plant
Peverly Run and Randall would be connected and "create road frontage for the subdivision itself," said Mitch Ensor of Bay State Land Services, who presented the plans to the committee on behalf of the owner/developer, listed as 3313 Abingdon Road LLC/Bob Ward Companies
Residents who spoke during the meeting said they fear connecting the roads could bring more traffic through their community.
Vera Howard, a board member with the Woodland Run Homeowners Association, said Peverly Run is marked as a "no outlet" road, and noted children play in the street.
"When you open up this development, which says, 'No outlet,' then we're going to be having more traffic coming in and out," she said.
Howard encouraged committee members to require the construction of "traffic calming" measures such as speed bumps to ensure safety.
In response to questions about why a cul-de-sac could not be built at the end of the road, instead of connecting Peverly Run and Randall, committee Chairman Moe Davenport said: "If every road turned into a cul-de-sac we wouldn't be able to move on our thoroughfares."
"When roads are designed to connect, they should connect," he explained.
Davenport said connecting roads also helps build a sense of community.