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The former Bel Air Auto Auction location in Bel Air is acre after acre of pavement that is being proposed for new uses.
The former Bel Air Auto Auction location in Bel Air is acre after acre of pavement that is being proposed for new uses. (MATT BUTTON | The Aegis file)

No one should be surprised.

Anyone who cares had to realize as they traveled business Route 1 in the area from the Harford Mall to Benson, that the site of the former Bel Air Auto Auction was going to be redeveloped.

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It’s never been a question of if, not that anyone would have thought that, but rather of how and when.

Those questions began getting answered recently as plans have been submitted to the county about what is proposed for the prime spot.

For more than seven decades, cars were auctioned at the 45-acre site in the 800 block of Baltimore Pike (aka Business Route 1). In recent years, as many motorists can attest, the operations of the Bel Air Auto Auction no longer fit physically on the premises.

For years, the owners have cast a longing eye toward somewhere closer to Interstate 95 that would make access to the auction quicker, easier and less maddening for those attending. They settled on a spacious, new home in Belcamp just a quick hop off of I-95 that takes a lot less time to get into and out of than fighting traffic from any of the interstate’s Harford exits across the county to the original site in Bel Air.

The recent move shuttered the Bel Air location, but only temporarily. Before long, there will be housing and retail created during the redevelopment.

“I want everyone in the neighborhood to be pleased with what we’re doing,” Alan Cohen, a principal in Cohen Siegel Investors, a Rockville residential and commercial development company, said. “The property can’t stay that way. Right now, it’s 50 acres of impervious land, not good for the environment. Parts need to be green again.”

The next step is important with a Community Input Meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 2, at 6 p.m. at the Abingdon Library.

“We are looking forward to what the community has to say,” Cohen said about the meeting.

The meeting is to let the principals in a project hear from the community, but it doesn’t necessarily affect change in the proposal.

“The Community Input Meeting is intended to facilitate dialogue between the developer and the community regarding the proposed development,” according to the county government web site. “Community Input Meetings are the sole responsibility of the property owner or developer.”

Concepts call for 131 villa-style homes, a senior living apartment building with up to 100 units, a convenience store with gas pumps, a retail building with restaurant and retail and office space.

Whatever come along will be a big change from 71 years of selling cars. We just hope there’s a traffic light included in the plan since it’s not likely a Harford County Sheriff’s Office deputy will be stationed there as they have been in recent years on Thursdays, auction day.

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