More than 50 frustrated people crammed into the Harford County Planning and Zoning Department's typically tepid development advisory committee meeting yesterday to protest plans to put an auto auction lot in their Riverside community.
They waited for more than three hours to express their concerns to the members of the committee, a collection of agencies, from state highways to county Emergency Medical Services, which must sign off on proposed projects. The group meets twice a month to review plans.
The proposed auto auction would be placed on a roughly 175-acre parcel in the Riverside Business Park, part of the planned, mixed-use Riverside community in southern Harford County off Route 543.
The auction site would be an expansion of the existing Bel Air Auto Auction, which has been in business on U.S. 1 since 1947, said Charles Nichols, one of the business owners. He said he did not have details on how many auctions might be held on the site each week.
Residents of Route 7 and nearby housing developments Seven Trails and Hollywoods derided proposed development along the road, also called Old Philadelphia Road, because of traffic and safety issues. They pointed out that a man was killed trying to cross that road about a year ago, and the number of auto accidents has been increasing steadily over the years.
"Our safety and health is jeopardized" by Route 7's traffic, said Grace Hiter, who lives on the old two-lane turnpike, which dates to Colonial times.
After numerous questions on the state's plans for the road, State Highway Administration representative Mark Redmond said, "There are no planned improvements for Route 7."
Many neighbors expressed anger at the county's planning process.
"You guys have ruined the quality of our lives," said Route 7 resident Ed Cloman.
Paul Muddiman of Morris & Ritchie Associates, an Abingdon engineering and planning company, said that before the auction plan was considered, 1.1 million square feel of distribution warehouses had been proposed for the site, which would have generated an estimated 600 tractor-trailer truck trips in and out of the site each day.
The new plan calls for more of the land - part of which falls in the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Commission - to be preserved, and fewer daily trips are anticipated in and out of the site.
David P. Scheffenacker Jr., head of Preston Partners, the Lutherville real estate firm that is developing the property, invited residents to help set up another meeting to air public concerns. Details of such a session were to be worked out between community members and Scheffenacker soon.