Andre Johnson, the newly elected Harford County Council member for District A, heard concerns from multiple Abingdon residents Monday about how a proposal to build more than 2.5 million square feet of warehouse, commercial and retail space near the Route 24/I-95 interchange could affect surrounding communities.
“This is not right for our neighborhood,” said Joe Saunders, who lives in the Autumn Run subdivision adjacent to a lot with a proposed 570,000 square-foot warehouse on it.
There are nine lots planned for the 336-acre wooded site between Route 24 and Abingdon Road — the site is zoned for commercial and industrial use. Eight of those lots would be for warehouse or “flex” space, and the remaining lot for individual stores and restaurants, according to an initial plan for the Abingdon Business Park.
The plan is on the Harford County website and was shown to those who attended a Jan. 15 community input meeting at the main Abingdon Fire Company fire house. That meeting was hosted by the property owners, developers and their engineering and planning firm, Morris & Ritchie Associates of Abingdon.
About 150 to 170 people attended that meeting, expressing strenuous opposition to the project. They cited concerns about increasing traffic in an already heavily-traveled area, having brightly-lit and noisy warehouses adjacent to residential areas and the potential harm to the environment and local wildlife.
Those same concerns were shared during the meeting hosted by Johnson Monday night at the Harford County Sheriff’s Office Southern Precinct in Edgewood, where about 60 people filled the meeting room.
Ray Paquin, who lives in the Philadelphia Station community northeast of Abingdon Road, said the nearby Route 7 already gets backed up with traffic on a regular basis — Route 7 runs south of the proposed warehouse site.
Paquin said he can tell where there are issues on I-95 because “you see the trucks bumper-to-bumper on Route 7.”
Drainage and flooding issues are a major concern for surrounding residents, who described the 336-acre site as a wetland, with underground springs and the Haha Branch stream running through it.
“I think I know that land better than anybody because I walk there,” said resident Steve Migliore, who lives on Wilson Avenue along the south end of the site. “I’ve been walking there for 15 years.”
Migliore said he walks through the woods, following deer trails north to I-95 and back. He said later that the trip takes 45 minutes one way.
Saunders, who grew up in Howard County, expressed concerns that development of the site could exacerbate flooding, and he touched on the development around Ellicott City that many others have blamed for the devastating floods that hit the downtown area in 2016 and 2018.
He suggested that his own community of Autumn Run “probably never should have even been built,” citing his neighbors’ regularly-flooding basements and water on the grounds that draws amphibians.
“I grew up in the country — I have never seen more frogs in my life,” Saunders said.
Kari Hodgson, who lives close to the main entrance to the site at Edgewood Road and Van Bibber Road, moderated the meeting.
“Our politicians, our government has the power to put pressure on [the developers], and we need to keep being the squeaky wheel,” she said.
Hodgson thanked Johnson for his interest and the residents for coming out to express their concerns.
“I think it really means a lot that we’re all speaking up,” she said.
Johnson said he plans to meet Friday with the developers and engineers to hear from them about the project, plus share residents’ concerns with them.
He said later that he convened Monday’s meeting because he could not attend the Jan. 15 community input meeting, as it fell the same night as a County Council meeting.
Johnson told audience members that “this is beautiful to me” to see them come out for the meeting. He encouraged them to remain in contact with his office and visit the Harford County District A Newsletter page on Facebook for more information.
“I thank you all for coming out, and hopefully after Feb.1 I’ll have some really good information to bring back to the community,” he said.