A proposal for two new warehouse buildings in Perryman, totaling 2.3 million square feet, is moving through Harford County's development review process, and residents told county officials last week that it could push area traffic over the edge.
The project, to be called Eastgate, would sit on a 246-acre site near Aberdeen Proving Ground's Ruggles Golf Course just south of Route 715.
Harford County's development advisory committee, or DAC, reviewed a preliminary site plan and request to combine three parcels for the project at its meeting last Wednesday.
Each of the project's two buildings would be more than 1 million square feet. By comparison, the Sephora cosmetics warehouse, opened on Perryman's Chelsea Road in September, is 655,000 square feet.
Residents said the project would cause more traffic through their community, which has already been besieged by truck traffic from the Perryman peninsula's booming industrial corridor.
A traffic impact study has been submitted to the county, Gerry Powell, of the Bel Air engineering firm Frederick Ward Associates, told the committee.
During the DAC review, Sara Zulauf, of Perryman, said she is concerned about plans to have traffic to the site come from Chelsea to Woodley Road, which "is not a good intersection."
"I am concerned all this traffic is going to be coming through a residential area," Zulauf told the committee. "It's already a problem with all the warehouses, Rite Aid and everything."
"Sephora is a huge problem now, just with car traffic," she added.
Besides Sephora, Rite Aid's Mid-Atlantic Distribution Center, which has been on Chelsea Road for over a decade, also generates considerable traffic, she and other speakers noted.
Leslie Ruhno, of Perryman, said only commercial traffic appeared to have been studied, and the volume of vehicles coming through Perryman "is a higher volume than we ever anticipated."
Ruhno said the county needs a comprehensive review of traffic on the Perryman peninsula to avoid residents potentially getting trapped during an incident.
She and other residents had been pushing for a new connection directly to Route 715, one that would remove some of the current truck traffic on Route 159 (Perryman Road), basically the area's only collector road.
The Eastgate project, consisting of two long buildings in a narrow strip between the railroad tracks and Aberdeen Proving Ground, would include extending Woodley Road to hug the entire east side of the site, Powell explained Wednesday.
The developer does not, however, plan to connect Woodley to Route 715, he said.
The county would need to get an easement to connect Route 715 and Woodley, county spokeswoman Cindy Mumby said. Although the concept has been discussed, the county doesn't have plans to make the connection, she said.
Ruhno told the committee: "We know development is inevitable, but we want to make sure we are doing this smartly."
She said the need for road improvements is not aimed at Eastgate, but also has been caused by Rite Aid and Clorox, the latter which is off Perryman Road and across the Amtrak railroad tracks from where the Eastgate buildings are planned.
"We are just out here on the peninsula and nothing's been done," Ruhno said, adding the county needs to make those requirements. "It's not just these developers' responsibility to make sure it's followed up."
"The weight is coming down," she said about traffic.
Ruhno said the peninsula continues to be commercialized while intersections like Spesutia Road gets major traffic backups.
"Sometimes it takes three or four light cycles to get out of our neighborhood," she said. "It just becomes this huge bottleneck."
DAC chairman Moe Davenport agreed that traffic is a consideration and said developers are meanwhile obligated to mitigate the impact to the project's intersections.
"We are well aware of the situation down there and we will review that with a keen eye when we are reviewing these studies," Davenport told Ruhno.
Glenn Dudderar, another Perryman resident, said the proposed extension would affect nearby neighborhoods.
"Michaelsville is a small residential community; there are homes of historic value," he said, adding developers are effectively asking for a residential area to be re-zoned to industrial by allowing heavy traffic to come through it.
Dudderar said residents had only been expecting development through existing rights of way.
"You have got some historic residences on this property that you are bringing these trucks through," Michael Carr, another resident, said.
He asked if any noise ordinance is in effect to mitigate the sound of trucks, and Davenport said there is not.
Powell acknowledged the site is in "a highly sensitive area" and the developer is proposing stormwater management to capture water on some "hot spots" and clean it through methods such as sand filters.
The project proposes providing water from Advantage Avenue by bringing it under the railroad tracks to serve the property, Powell said.
The property contains very little woods, and the developer plans to reforest about 36 acres, he said.
The county health department approved the site plan, but suggested moving the stormwater facility farther from a more sensitive part of the Perryman Wellfield District.