Redevelopment is planned for a busy corner in the Fallston/Benson area of Harford County known for its high volumes of daily traffic and frequent congestion.
A 12,000 square foot retail building has been proposed for the southwest corner of the intersection of Route 1 and Whitaker Mill Road.
The 1.7-acre property is currently occupied by a vehicle repair shop and a number of cars, SUVs and trucks awaiting repairs. The property has been advertised for lease and the repair shop has signs saying it is moving.
The property is owned by 1601 Bel Air Road LLC of Owings Mills. Plans for redevelopment were reviewed Wednesday morning in Bel Air by the Harford County Development Advisory Committee.
The committee, whose membership consists of representatives of county agencies and some state agencies involved in the site plan and building permitting process had a number of questions and concerns for Tom Miner of the Harford County based engineering and architectural firm Frederick Ward Associates, who represented the developer.
Miner said an end user for the planned building has not been identified, and the property owner is handling negotiations with prospective tenants, so he really couldn’t say what the building would ultimately be used for.
The property currently has access from Route 1 and from two points on Whitaker Mill Road, as well as a use easement from the owner of Benson Retail Center between its two buildings to the west of the site. The closest of those two buildings is Seafood Stop.
At the intersection – the south side of which is Whitaker Mill Road and the north side which is Connolly Road – there is a Wawa convenience store with fuel facility directly across Route 1. Across Whitaker Mill from the site is a fuel station and repair shop and across Route 1 from that is the Jones Junction auto sales complex.
Committee members said the site plan as submitted will have to be redone because a rear drive behind the building encroaches on the 25-foot setback required from an adjoining residential property.
Although a traffic impact study has been submitted to both the county and state, Mike Risk of public works engineering said a revised study should to incorporate “a wider review of traffic improvements” that may be needed in the vicinity of the property.
One resident of the area, Stephanie Taylor who lives off Whitaker Mill near the site, said she is opposed to the development because “traffic is horrendous” and more retail will make it worse.
Taylor said the Route 1/Whitaker Mill/Connolly intersection has numerous accidents, including one in which her parents car was broadsided by a driver who didn’t stop for the signal on Route 1.
“I don’t want this; it’s not safe,” Taylor said.
Moe Davenport, the committee chairman, said following the meeting that the committee does have concerns about the site plan and traffic issues; however, the site is zoned for commercial development, so the county wants to work with the engineer and owner to address some of its concerns.
Davenport said the location of the building on the site will have to be adjusted to address the set back issue, which could in turn affect where the access points from Route 1 and Whitaker Mill are located.
He also acknowledged there are already traffic congestion issues along the Route 1 corridor in Fallston – which has seen a steady stream of commercial development — both new and redevelopment of existing properties – as well as new residential development over the past decade.
“We’ve asked for a revised traffic study,” he said.
In an email following the meeting, Miner, the project engineer, said they would be taking the DAC comments into account when developing the final site plan.
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“It’s going to be a nice project and allow the area to be tied in together to create a cohesive frontage of stores,” he wrote.