Legislation would give neighbors more say about new subdivisions HARFORD COUNTY


Harford County residents would have more to say about what developers are building next door to them if proposed legislation is passed by the County Council this fall.

The bill, which will be introduced before the County Council next month by Teresa Pierno, a Democrat representing District C, and Susan B. Heselton, a Republican from District A, would require a community input meeting before plans for residential, commercial and industrial subdivisions are submitted to the Department of Planning and Zoning.

Currently, a public hearing is required only when a developer's plans involve a request for a change in zoning. Proposals for land already zoned for the intended use don't have to go through any public scrutiny, Mrs. Pierno said.

"What we're trying to avoid is a situation where a community does not become aware of a project being developed until land is actually broken. That happens a lot, and that's when the panic button is hit," she said.

The two council members have scheduled two public workshops to discuss a draft of their legislation before it is introduced in council Oct. 12. The workshops are set for 7 p.m. Sept. 27 at Edgewood High School and Sept. 29 at Bel Air High School.

The proposed law would require that comments and recommendations made by citizens at a community input meeting be recorded and attached to the developer's preliminary plan filed with the county.

Too often, residents bring significant issues to the attention of county officials after construction has begun, Mrs. Pierno said.

"By then it's late in the game and very expensive for the developer to make revisions. It makes a lot more sense to involve the community early on and avoid the expense."

The bill also seeks to involve local communities at other stages of the planning. The Planning Advisory Board, a five-member citizen advisory group that reviews major land-use issues in the county, would be required to review minutes of all community input meetings and make recommendations to the county.

In addition, the Development Advisory Board, now dominated by state and county agency representatives, would be expanded to include two citizens appointed by the County Council.

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