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Construction of 38-unit townhouse community in Bel Air is under way, more to come

Development of a 38-unit townhouse community is under way on the St. Matthew Lutheran Church property off Moores Mill Road in Bel Air. More units are planned on the Route 22 side of the tract.
Development of a 38-unit townhouse community is under way on the St. Matthew Lutheran Church property off Moores Mill Road in Bel Air. More units are planned on the Route 22 side of the tract. (MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF / Baltimore Sun)

Construction of a 38-unit townhome community off Moores Mill Road in Bel Air is in its early stages, with ongoing site preparation work, and houses should start going up by early next year, if weather conditions remain favorable, according to the developer.

It is one of two townhome developments slated for property previously owned by the neighboring St. Matthew Lutheran Church at the intersection of Moores Mill Road and Route 22. The second development, which will have 33 units, will be built on a 7.3-acre parcel off Route 22 just west of the church.

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The first phase of the project, the 38 units, is being built on 5.7 acres off Moores Mill between the rear of the church and Southampton Middle School, according to Bel Air Planning Director Kevin Small.

"We should start utilities this week," Fred Sheckells, co-owner of Fallston-based Ten Oaks Realty, said Monday. "If this weather holds, we'll have the roads installed by the end of this year."

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The Bel Air Planning Commission reviewed 51 properties slated for comprehensive rezoning Thursday, and they approved 48, as owners of three properties requested that they keep their current zoning.

Sheckells' firm is under contract with Ryan Homes to build the 20-foot-wide townhouses, he said.

"With a little bit of favorable weather we should start home construction by the first quarter of next year," Sheckells said.

Dirt is being moved from the Route 22 parcel to the Moores Mill Road site to properly elevate those townhouses, according to Small.

"You'll see a lot of dump trucks moving back and forth between the two sites," he said.

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The Town of Bel Air is moving ahead with a comprehensive zoning review and an updating of town development regulations this fall. The town's planning commission will hold public hearing on zoning changes proposed for 51 properties, on Thursday, Oct. 6 at Town Hall, 39 N. Hickory Ave., beginning at 7 p.m.

The developer has received a grading permit from the town for the Route 22 site, but does not yet have a building permit, according to Small.

Entrances to each site will be built from Route 22 and Moores Mill Road, but there will not be an internal access road connecting the two properties, Small said. This is because of wetlands and floodplain areas between each site.

Those factors have "severely restricted" development on the Moores Mill Road site as well, according to Small.

Ten Oaks Realty is working with the town and Harford County on road improvements at the entrance off Moores Mill Road, which is maintained by the county, and the State Highway Administration on improvements around the entrance off the state-maintained Route 22.

Improvements along Moores Mill include lengthening left-turn lanes at the intersections with Hickory Avenue and Route 22, according to Small.

Sheckells said his firm is still discussing road improvements to Route 22 with the SHA, but he anticipates they will include a left-turn lane for motorists heading east who want to enter the community – the entrance will be across the highway from Bynum Run Park.

Other improvements include deceleration lanes and restricting traffic leaving the community to a right turn only, according to Sheckells.

The townhouse parcels are part of a more than 50-acre property that includes the church and wetland areas that will be used as open space. The town annexed the entire property in 2010, according to Small.

The church requested the annexation as part of the process of developing a section of its property.

The 50 acres have been subdivided into four parcels, including the 13 combined acres for the townhouses, 12.2 acres for the church and the remaining 26.6 acres for open space.

The Bel Air Board of Town Commissioners unanimously approved a charter resolution Monday to annex 2.33 acres off Moores Mill Road, although two nearby residents expressed concerns about the three single-family homes slated for development on that property.

The townhouse parcels have been transferred to a company owned by the developer, according to Sheckells.

"Overall the timing is right," Sheckells said of the new housing. "I think what the town needs more than anything right now is more people on the streets using the restaurants and shops, and I think in general this is going to be really good for the town."

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