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Residents oppose two new Royal Farms stores in Joppa area

Plans by Royal Farms to expand its small Joppatowne store and add gasoline pumps – and be open 24/7 – is drawing opposition from neighboring residents.
Plans by Royal Farms to expand its small Joppatowne store and add gasoline pumps – and be open 24/7 – is drawing opposition from neighboring residents. (Ted Hendricks/The Aegis/BSMG)

Two new Royal Farms stores planned for the Joppa area drew opposition during a Development Advisory Commission meeting in Bel Air Wednesday morning.

Nearby residents spoke against a replacement store that will add gas pumps and an expanded business at Kearney Drive and Joppa Farm Road in Joppatowne, as well as a new store proposed at the southeast corner of the Clayton Road and Route 152 intersection, less than a quarter of a mile from the intersection of Routes 40 and 152 in Joppa.

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As often happens at DAC meetings, opponents of the projects used the forum to voice their opposition, but to little avail because by the time a project comes up for a DAC it’s typically too far into the approval process and the advisory committee has little to no sway in stopping a project.

“The Harford County Development Advisory Committee (DAC) advises the Director of Planning regarding major subdivisions and other large-scale developments,” according to the county government website. “The DAC is composed of representatives of county, state, federal and utility agencies. Each County agency represented on the DAC provides oral or written comment expressing the agency's recommendation or opinion regarding each development plan reviewed by the Committee. The DAC meeting is also a forum to address issues and comments by the general public.”

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“Unfortunately, we can’t change the zoning,” Moe Davenport, chief of the county government’s Development Review Section, said after the committee heard more than 45 minutes of comments, all against a new store in Joppatowne. Davenport chairs the DAC panel.

Royal Farms plans to build a new store at the corner of Route 152 and Clayton Road in Joppa, a short distance from Route 40, which is in the background.
Royal Farms plans to build a new store at the corner of Route 152 and Clayton Road in Joppa, a short distance from Route 40, which is in the background. (Ted Hendricks/The Aegis/BSMG)

The current zoning allows commercial development on the site in question where there’s an existing Royal Farms store, without gas pumps, and a Harford Bank branch.

“It’s not that we don’t want Royal Farms there,” Lee Crush, a neighbor of the existing store, said. “We don’t want the gas pumps.”

That was the recurring theme from those who spoke against the expanded store – adding gas pumps would change the dynamic that has existed in the neighborhood that has peacefully coexisted with a small, not very well-lit store.

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“I never thought we would be having this conversation,” Donald Merritt, another neighbor of the exiting store, said. “It’s a go-to-sleep town. By 9:30 [p.m.], it’s boom and it’s all shut down.

The existing store is open daily from 5 a.m. till midnight and the replacement store, complete with gas pumps, is intended to be open 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

“This will be the biggest, brightest thing in that area,” Merritt said. “Lighting is obviously a concern.”

More than the lighting, more than the additional noise and traffic and more than the potential for more crime, the biggest concern is the overall impact on the community.

“This is a pretty aggressive change for the neighborhood,” Merritt said.

Royals Farms, which had outside planners and company employees at the meeting, understands those concerns, according to one company official.

“We are in a small community,” Jack Winstead, of Royal Farms, said. “We know that.”

He said the business model is for Royal Farms stores to be 24/7 operations. He did, however, allow for the slight possibility that the Joppa Farm Road store might have limited hours.

“It’s all about what kind of business we’re going to be generating,” Winstead said.

He added the new lighting, which will be LED and directed downward, will not reach beyond the property.

“There’s no light coming off the property, per code,” Winstead said. “We don’t need to be a beacon in the middle of a residential neighborhood.”

Merritt tried to change the conversation to the new Royal Farms at Clayton Road and Route 152 and to make the point such a big store in Joppatowne wouldn’t be necessary because of the other new store.

“You have a big Royal Farms going up right up the street,” Merritt said. “We’re not here to oppose that.”

“Yes, we are,” Maureen Cornett and Irene Kane chimed in unison. Their turn to speak up was soon approaching, when the DAC meeting moved on to the Royal Farms proposed for Mountain Road on what is a vacant lot.

“My first comment is traffic,” Cornett, a neighbor of the Clayton Road proposed site, said. “We don’t want all this extra traffic and we don’t want all of the trash. The trash and the traffic are what scare me.”

Kane, her companion, shared much of the same concerns.

“We have a lot of accidents on Clayton and Route 7 now,” she said. “I don’t like the light pollution. The ne’er-do-wells are going to be walking the streets at all hours.”

Kane shared one more thought with the committee.

“The traffic is just hideous now,” she said. “That’s the main thing, and the stormwater management.”

Davenport was sympathetic to the concerns expressed by the opponents, but also made clear there was little he could do.

“We’re moving forward on these plans,” he said.

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