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Harford Council approves HarfordNEXT master plan

The Harford County Council approved the HarfordNEXT master plan, with a slightly expanded development envelope and a clarified "study area" for the Creswell area, Tuesday night.

The development envelope would grow by another 28 acres after 50 amendments passed by the council last week, expanding the amount of county land designated for growth by 0.36 percent instead of 0.31 percent.

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Councilman Mike Perrone was alone in voting against the plan, an initiative by Planning and Zoning Director Bradley Killian to combine the county's element plans into a more comprehensive and visionary document.

Perrone said although he likes many parts of HarfordNEXT, he is still troubled by other aspects, including high density along Trimble Road at Route 40 that he said is "bad timing" and sets up the area to only get townhouses, language on the "landbanking" of combining parcels to allow for bigger projects and his ongoing concern about the Creswell-area study area.

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Perrone had proposed amendments regarding those issues at the last council meeting, which were voted down by the other council members.

The study area, which many residents had previously opposed, was clarified by County Executive Barry Glassman in an effort to explain it would not promote growth in a swath of land directly east of the development envelope, in the Bel Air/Creswell areas.

Perrone also did not like line items encouraging rental property owners to designate smoking areas and encouraging programs to promote affordable homeownership for young families and older families as an alternative to renting.

"It is this kind of mentality that got us into the Fannie Mae [foreclosure crisis]," Perrone said, adding that, as a renter, he does not subscribe to the idea that "owning is always better than renting."

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Councilman Jim McMahan, meanwhile, criticized Perrone's criticism.

"If you have got 10 items and you don't like one, you don't stop the world and everybody gets off," he said.

Council President Dick Slutzky reacted to Perrone's criticism on smoking regulation, saying the problem is that, when renters are allowed to smoke in public spaces, it affects the health of future residents.

Councilman Chad Shrodes praised Glassman's administration and said he hopes "this document does not get dusty on a shelf."

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