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Harford residents tell committee development in Fallston, Hickory will add traffic, students

Peak Management is proposing to build a five-building, 184-unit apartment complex on the northeast corner of Routes 1 and 543 in Hickory.
Peak Management is proposing to build a five-building, 184-unit apartment complex on the northeast corner of Routes 1 and 543 in Hickory.(Erika Butler/The Aegis)

Traffic is already bad in Fallston and Hickory and schools are already crowded — with classes getting even larger because teachers will be eliminated — and adding new homes to those communities is only going to make things worse, residents said.

A combined villa townhome and single-family home development is planned off Route 152 between Harford Road and Belair Road in Fallston and five, five-story apartment buildings are proposed off the intersection of Routes 543 and Route 1 in Hickory.

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Concept plans for both projects were reviewed Wednesday by the Harford County Development Advisory Committee, where residents said neither plan really fits in aesthetically with its surrounding community and asked that schools and traffic be taken into consideration.

Both developments are considered special developments by the county and require DAC review of concept plans first. Once they are approved, the developers will submit preliminary site plans, which will also be reviewed by the Development Advisory Committee.

Greg Edwards and his family moved from the Perry Hall area in Baltimore County to Ryan Road in Fallston a couple years ago to get away from the growth in that area, where developments were popping up everywhere and there was no land or money to grow, he said.

“There’s a sea of trailers at Perry Hall High School,” Edwards said. “The students are suffering, the teachers are suffering, the community is suffering.”

He and his family chose Fallston for its wide-open fields, lower density neighborhoods and its schools, he said.

With communities proposed such as Aumar Village and Hickory Crossing, “it feels very Perry Hall-ish,” Edwards said.

“In my limited time here, it’s not what I feel Bel Air, Fallston and Street are. It’s not Harford County. These are not Harford County developments,” he said. “It feels very Prince George’s County, Baltimore County. It feels like it will be detrimental to everyone who lives here and wants to live here.”

Aumar Village

Christine Heisey, who lives on Brickhouse Lane in Fallston, has lived in Harford County her entire life.

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She remembers the Fallston area, where developer Michael Euler wants to build 86 townhomes and single-family homes, before it was developed, when neighborhoods like Brookhill Farms, Brandywine Farms and Stratford were still in their infancy.

“Mountain Road, it was windy, it was two lanes, it was slow. Route 1 was still two lanes,” Heisey said, and in 1968, when 86 homes were proposed for the same site, it wasn’t a bad idea.

Today, however, more than 25,000 cars a day go through the area and there are multiple accidents at Routes 1 and 152.

“Putting people into a neighborhood so close to that intersection, it’s just going to cause more problems, more accidents, more interference,” Heisey said. “It’s going to have such an impact on traffic and people. I really feel they need to readdress the concept.”

The neighborhood would be accessible by Mountain Road across from Harmony Terrace and through the adjacent Aumar Village shopping center and is projected to add 46 students to the school system — 21 to Youth’s Benefit, which is at 91 percent capacity; 11 to Fallston Middle, 86 percent capacity; and 14 to Fallston High, 63 percent capacity.

The homes would be built on 35 acres, about 27 of them zoned medium-density residential (R2) and eight acres zoned for general business (B3), which allows residential units, Bob Capalongo, a project manager with CNA Associates, said.

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Joyce Mason, whose son lives along Mountain Road, said the proposed three-story homes aren’t compatible with other homes in the area, which are mostly ranchers.

“The three-story homes will tower over the homes already there,” Mason said.

Gloria Moon said the parking lot of the adjacent shopping center is already “confusing” and “dangerous,” and adding more cars trying to access the neighborhood is going to make it worse. “It’s just chaos in there,” Moon said.

Whitney Nechay, who lives in Baldwin Mill Road in Fallston, said the county needs to “stop operating in a silo and needs to be more cognizant of the ripple effects of decisions” made by the DAC.

The county council recently refused to increase school funding, which means teachers are going to be eliminated across the county.

It’s a disillusion to think only 21 students will be added to Youth’s Benefit, she said.

“School are already underfunded, to add just one more student to an underfunded school is just a tremendous impact to the school system and the quality of education,” Nechay said.

While Euler has said the neighborhood is geared toward empty-nesters, the homes will be attractive to people in their 30s and 40s who have children and want to live in Fallston, Edwards said.

“If I didn’t already live in Fallston, it would be one of the first places I’d look,” he said.

Crossroads at Hickory

Peak Acquisition LLC is proposing five, five-story apartment buildings with 184 units on 9 acres zoned general business (B3) in Hickory. The complex will have a walking path, a pool and a clubhouse, Frederick Ward landscape architect Kate Connelly said. Garages will also be available.

Access will be on Jack Lane to Route 543 and onto Business Route 1, she said.

The project is estimated to add 26 students to the school system — 13 at Hickory Elementary, which is at 97 percent of its capacity; five at Southampton Middle, 79 percent capacity; and eight at C. Milton Wright High, at 85 percent capacity.

Hickory Elementary “is an area of concern as the school is already at or near capacity,” said Missy Valentino, a facilities planner for Harford County Public Schools and a member of DAC.

Harford County has very few five-story buildings, said Patti Sauers, who lives on Conowingo Road in Bel Air. Her daughter and family owns and operates Sunshine Farm, diagonally across from the proposed apartment site.

She cited, from the county’s website, what she said are the core values of the committee: “working to ensure a safe, harmonious, livable community for current and future generations.”

“I am asking that you carefully and diligently reapply the lens of this purpose statement as you review and consider this proposed project, and design it with buildings compatible and harmonious with surrounding uses,” Sauers said.

A staff member at Hickory Elementary School, Sauers said the school was overcapacity, at 102 percent, on Wednesday morning, as the DAC meeting was going on.

She concerned for the people who live in the apartments, who will be “on an island of land” surrounded by three main roads, commercial/industrial properties, a school bus lot and tractor trailers and dump trucks.

Sauers said the project “would be a detriment to the community.”

“While it is in the development envelope, its at the most distant edge and incompatible with the way of life in North Bel Air, also known as Hickory.”

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Sabrina Coale lives in Street but comes through Hickory to get anywhere, she said.

Traffic at Routes 543 and 1 is manageable right now, but it’s going to get “immensely worse” with the cars that would be added from new development.

“We are a rural community, we’d like to stay that way,” Coale said.

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