Friends of Harford is dedicated to a vision of Harford County as a community where an exceptional quality of life is achieved through respecting the environment and the needs of all citizens, by protecting natural resources, improving neighborhoods and preserving open space and our rural character.
Friends of Harford provides information to help you influence land use decisions being made about your community and the rest of the County. It is your decision whether and how to use this information to guide your county officials in making good choices.
- Bill 15-036 MO - Mixed Office Zoning District (November 19, 2015) Bill 15-036 must not pass. It significantly changes the intent, quality and purpose of the MO designation
defined in the Zoning Code and 2012 Master Plan, defeating MO's primary purpose. To the currently allowed uses in MO, Bill 15-036 will add:
Commercial amusement and recreation; nightclubs, lounges, bars and taverns; Theaters, indoor; Theaters; outdoor; schools, colleges, and
universities; Garden apartment dwellings (3 stories) ; Mid-rise apartment dwellings (4 - 5 stories); Townhouse dwellings; Hotels..... (Read it....)
- Why FOH is proposing a Lighting Ordinance for Harford (Augusat 31 2015) Summary ( Repeat from Feb 2014 News & Views): Harford residents' quality of life continues to be ruined by intense outdoor lighting intruding into their properties. Homeowners and others are dismayed to learn Harford County won't help them. Instead, local officials have ignored FoH's proposed lighting legislation since we gave it to them in February 2014. Want to get the legislation moving? (Read it....)
- A Brief Overview of Tax Increment Financing (TIF):
a Primer and a Caution June 14, 2015 Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is public financing to support private projects desirable to Harford that cannot attract developers without government support. TIFs should be used to offset a developer's added costs to renovate or redevelop, since this saves taxpayers' money in the long run by preserving property values in the area.
When government expects its public to significantly benefit from a TIF project, it can agree to finance a bond for the developer; it pays for the developer's bond by forgoing up to 30 years of increased property tax revenue from his project. Property taxes from the development pay the TIF bondholders instead of paying for County schools, roads, police, etc. Thus a TIF saves money for the developer (and those who buy his properties) by increasing the burden on other Harford taxpayers.
A TIF has been granted twice here in Harford County: once for a housing development at Beechtree Estates and once for the James Run Mixed Office project. In both cases, the TIF was given to build on undeveloped land. Friends of Harford objects, believing TIFs are for redevelopment and should not be used to give an unfair advantage to one developer over those who pay these costs out of their own pockets. We fail to see how either of these projects offer enough benefit to the public to justify the amount of property tax being given up.
We are writing this article in anticipation that the TIF issue will arise again for the James Run LLC or a new project, to alert businesses to the unfair competition and to inform taxpayers of the adverse impacts. READ MORE ABOUT TIF in our new article.
- HarfordNEXT - the new Master Plan (May 4, 2015) The early and rapid update of the Harford County Master Plan (current version 2012) is underway as of the end of April. Why should you care? Because the Comprehensive Zoning Review (CZR) wiill immediately follow. The Master Plan will form the strategy for CZR changes; CZR changes are the reason for all the development project issues citizens are now complaining about. Few bothered to show at the County's Master Plan meeting on April 29. How about attending your local Community Council meeting, where the Master Plan will be discussed? AND/OR submit comments on the county Master Plan website. Read more ....
Friends of Harford 2015 Annual Meeting Presentations April 20, 2015 Friends of Harford hopes you had the opportunity to join us at our annual meeting, Sunday, April 19, and that you enjoyed our presentations, the company of your neighbors and the refreshments. We hope attendees learned something useful to them.
The program provided an overview of the Real Estate Development Process in Harford County from a citizen's perspective. It included talks by three local community leaders, describing what they saw as on-going inadequacies of the process and potential solutions. We also identified upcoming opportunities for citizens to get involved to fix it. (Read more....)
A Unified Water and Sewer Authority of Harford County: An Investigation into the Problem and Effectiveness of the Proposed Authority prepared by John Swab for The Friends of Harford, August 2014.(September 11, 2014) A young college student with local roots and a sharp mind approached Friends of Harford for a summer internship. After meeting with him, we proposed several potential projects of interest to us. He selected the Water and Sewer Authority, which we have brought to your attention before. We proudly present Jack's paper to you to help you understand what is going on and some potential consequences. We will have more on this topic in the future.
Phase 2 of the W&S Authority implementation planning by Harford county and its three municipalities is underway as of July, again as a contract effort. As before, minutes of the contract monitoring meetings (not open to the public) can be seen on the Department of Public Works home page. We have been told they will be far enough along by some time in November to let the citizens be involved (read: after elections). We urge that you do; there is little more precious than access to water.
Greater Baltimore Citizen Survey Finds Poor Construction Site Mud Pollution Control (September 11, 2014) Three members of Friends of Harford participated in the survey of Harford County sites as part of this project. As summarized in the survey report:
"In June and July, 2014, 105 construction sites in the Greater Baltimore region were surveyed for erosion control quality by 33 staff and volunteers from 22 local, statewide or national organizations. We found that up to 89% of disturbed, construction soils could be fully stabilized (protected) from erosion through the use of straw mulch, grass or stone. However, only 23% of these soils actually were protected. We are deeply concerned that the same may be true throughout much of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Harford County is achieving the highest stabilization rate (37%), followed by Baltimore City and Howard County (27% each). Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Carroll counties had the lowest stabilization rate (12% – 19%) with an average of 16%." (Read the complete report here....)
- FOH Position Against Bill 14-21 (May 28, 2014) Friends of Harford
strongly opposes Bill 14-21 [Untitled], the Harford County Charter Amendment that would eliminate both the County Council serving as the Board of Appeals and the Board of Appeals itself. Under this bill, appeals of Zoning decisions made by the Hearing Examiner could only be made directly to the Maryland Circuit Court, making Harford County the only county in Maryland without a Board of Appeals. (Read more....)
- FOH Election 2014 Questionaire (May 27, 2014) Friends of Harford asked each candidate for County Executive or for County Council to answer five questions relating to land use and quality of life in our community. In exchange, we would post their answers on our website along with a link to the candidate's web site, and would email members of our distribution list with notice of its availability. The suspense date to reply was May 26. Read the questions and candidate replies....
- FOH Annual Report for 2013 (May 23, 2014) This year,Friends of Harford has: Asked the County Council to amend their procedures to allow the public to know about and to testify on amendments to bills; Worked extensively with community groups and individuals, supplying information tailored to specific projects and concerns. (e.g., Eva-Mar Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), WalMart on Plumtree, new warehouses next to restored homes in Perryman, adverse impacts to neighbors of Cedar Lane Regional Park); Issued “FOH Alerts” for 26 Community Input Meetings (CIM), 17 Development Advisory Committee (DAC) meetings, 4 Special Exception (SE) Hearings, and notifications of Bill 13-29 Field Houses, I-95 Section 200 public meeting, Bill 14-01 Zoning Code Updates, Water & Sewer Plan update (Resolution 5-14), and Bill 14-10 Septic Reserve Areas; Testified on Bills and Resolutions .... (Read it....)
- 2014 Election in Harford County (April 28, 2014) Friends of Harford has invited all candidates for County Executive or County Council to answer five questions relating to land use planning. We promised each of them that we would "post whatever we receive on our website and notify those on our distribution list. We will also provide a link to your campaign website should you have one." Our 2014 Election page is now open with the first response having been received. We hope it will be a useful reference for you.
- Citizens Guide to Bay Restoration (November 3, 2013) For those who want to play a role in restoring bay health comes the Citizens Guide to Bay Restoration. The new, reader-friendly guide from the Maryland Department of Planning dishes up dozens of strategies for residents, developers, farmers and others interested in helping reduce nitrogen and phosphorus runoff and sediment build-up. Read it on-line (title link), or download it as pdf.
- Smart, Green & Growing: Planning Guide 2013 (October 1, 2013) Maryland Department of Planning has compiled a handy guide to land-use planning in Maryland, including background on the state's enabling legislation and significant laws.
- Sustainable Communities Tax Credit
- The Septics Law
- New Sustainable Communities Financing Law
(We find the format of the screen display of the document a little hard to read. To download a pdf version, hit "click to read", then go to the very top-center of the new screen and hover over the icon in the center; click on "download files" when it appears, then "download current file". ) (Read it....)
- Stormwater Runoff Management (August 6, 2013) On May 2, 2012, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed into law House Bill 987, which requires Maryland counties and municipalities to collect a Stormwater Remediation Fee from taxpayers to fund the implementation of local stormwater management practices and stream and wetland restoration projects. Nine Maryland counties with the greatest impact on the Chesapeake Bay, including Harford, plus Baltimore City, will be first to implement the law. This fee is erroneously and derogatorily referred to as the “rain tax” by opponents. Below is a brief explanation of stormwater runoff effects on our environment and why we need to act as mandated by this new law. (Read more....)
- What's allowed on Agricultural (AG-zoned) land? (April 19, 2013) As developers consider how best to profit from developing rural land holdings, it's important to understand what can be built. Here's a listing of what is allowed (Permitted, permitted as a Special Development, permitted as Temporary) and what uses are Special Exceptions which can be allowed by the County Council. Uses not listed are not allowed. (Read more....)
- FOH Annual Report for 2012 (April 15, 2013) This past year, Friends of Harford has:
Explained to the public why a Wal-Mart can be built on Plumtree Road and how this might have been prevented;
Explained to the County Council how SB235 Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act ("the septics bill") will affect Harford's rural areas, and how a good TDR (Transferable Development Rights) program is essential to protect farmer's free-market financial interests while also protecting local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay; (Read more....)
- FOH Testimony supporting Bill 13-12 Stormwater Remediation Fee (March 19, 2013) Friends of Harford supports the purpose and philosophy behind Bill 13-12 "Stormwater Remediation Fee" because past stormwater management practices have proven inadequate to protect our properties, our streams, the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay. FOH won't comment on
the specifics of the bill since we don't have the tools to determine what needs to be done or
what it will ultimately cost. (Read more....)
- Enhancing Communications. (February 26, 2013) Friends of Harford is expanding our public outreach via email with "FOH Alerts" for time sensitive actions and with less frequent "News & Views from FOH" for general information and FOH positions.
We encourage you to take advantage of the opportunities contained in these messages to influence what happens in your community.
FOH is providing this information as a public service. If you wish to share it, please do! We welcome your participation and support.
Friends of Harford has already sent two "FOH News" emails to our current distribution list announcing Community Input Meetings .
- If you received them, you are already on our list and need take no action. To remove your name from our list, reply to one of the emails with the word "remove" in the body of your reply.
- To add your name to our distribution list, click on the following link to send an email to email@example.com with the words "ADD ME TO YOUR DISTRIBUTION" in the subject of your message. Please add your name in the body of the message so we know how to address you.
- Morita Bruce, President
- BRTB Welcomes Comments on Annual Budget & Work Program (February 26, 2013) Every year, the Baltimore Regional Transportation Board (BRTB) develops a work program and budget for the coming fiscal year (July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014). All transportation projects and programs that receive federal funding in our region go through this planning process The BRTB is currently welcoming comments on the draft FY 2014 budget and work program. Comments welcome through: Monday, March 18, 2013.
- Town of Bel Air Sustainability Plan (January 24, 2013) Called Sustainable Bel Air 2013-2018, dated January 2013, this plan is probably not yet official, but is available on the town's website. It is good to see such a proactive effort in Harford County.
- Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan (January 23, 2013) The draft Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, Jnauary 2013, is an important part of helping to make Harford County a truly multimodal community; one that promotes and supports increased bicycle and pedestrian activity. It is also an important step in helping Harford County become a healthier community.
Development of the Plan is anticipated to take about a year. To help with this effort, the County Executive has appointed a Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee consisting of representatives from various government agencies and departments as well as bicycle and pedestrian advocates. The Advisory Committee met periodically throughout 2012. The Public Comment Period
for the draft plan is open until January 31, 2013.
- Maryland Route 22 Corridor Study (January 23, 2013) The county's final report, dated September 2012, is available. The report displays proposed short, medium and long term improvements with cost estimates (ignoring possibly overriding right of way purchases).
- Exposed Soil = Pollution? (January 15, 2013) Friends of Harford just received an email from Richard Klein, Community and Environmental Defense Services (CEDS), with information which we would like to share. His message is printed below; read the whole discussion on the CEDS website at the link on the title line:
This week Maryland’s new construction site sediment pollution regulations went into effect.
- Protect All Exposed Soils 7 Days After Clearance Among the most important new requirements is that all exposed construction site soils must be protected from erosive forces within seven days of initial clearance. For most of a site, this means all disturbed areas must be covered with a layer of mulch (straw, etc.) sufficiently thick to obscure underlying soils. An equally important new requirement is that 95% vegetative (grass) cover must be achieved.
- Silt Fence & Settling Ponds Can’t Protect The Bay; Only Thick Mulch & Grass In the past most sites might have a sparse cover of grass and mulch resulting in vast quantities of eroded soil flowing into nearby waters. It takes thick mulch and 95% cover to prevent pollution of nearby waters. Perimeter measures like black silt fence and settling ponds simply can’t retain enough mud pollution on-site. In fact, whenever you see exposed soil on a construction site, you can assume pollution will occur come the next storm. In other words: Exposed Soil = Pollution. Please report it at the Watershed Advocates Construction ES=P Database and/or to your local enforcement agency.
- Sites Present Before March Must Have 95% Grass Cover By April 15th Of course grass will not begin growing until March with another two- to four-weeks needed to achieve 95% cover. If a site was cleared prior to March, yet by April 15th you see something less than 95% grass cover then you are also witnessing a violation of one of our most important aquatic resource protection laws. Again, please report it promptly! This is the best way to ensure this new law is fully enforced and the Bay and her tributaries are fully protected.
- SB 236 Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012 (October 8, 2012)
is a Maryland law which must be implemented locally by Harford County. Its goals are to reduce pollution of our waterways and the Chesapeake Bay, encourage sustainable development, and protect farms and natural resources. Thus, SB 236 directs development away from rural areas and into areas with access to public sewage systems.
We have recently heard some speeches and seen writings from County elected officials that made harsh and inaccurate assessments of this new law. We feel obligated to provide Harford residents more thoughtful information. An informative letter summarizing this act was sent by 1000 Friends of Maryland to Harford and other County Councils in Maryland and has been graciously shared with us. Friends of Harford has also prepared an explanation of how SB 236 affects Harford County. Harford's Department of Planning and Zoning explains what the four Tiers are and provides a map (see our news item below "Designations of 'Tiers' for Harford County Properties") where you can learn about the Tier designation for particular areas and properties. Planning and Zoning is also working on a new Transferable Development Rights (TDR) program which is needed to effectively implement SB236 while protecting farmers' existing property rights.
- A Citizen's Guide to the Harford County Property Development Process (September 18, 2012) by Friends of Harford. How does a bare piece of ground get turned into buildings? Can the public influence what happens, and if so when? Read our quick summary. Keep it on your computer to maintain live links to web pages with more information.
Designation of "Tiers" for Harford County Properties (September 7, 2012; updated Oct 4) As explained on the county website:
"The establishment of Tiers, as defined in SB 236, furthers the State's Smart Growth policy as envisioned in the 1992 Economic Growth, Resource Protection, and Planning Act and the 2009 Smart, Green and Growing legislation. The goal of SB 236 is to reduce the impacts of large subdivisions with septic systems on farm and forest land, streams, rivers and Chesapeake and Coastal Bays."
Read the definitions of the four Tiers, and then see where your property and the rest of Harford fits into these categories on the maps found near the top of the county's linked page. There are a small printable map and an interactive map (recommended). (Trick: the interactive map is a small size on your monitor. Hit "control" and "+" simultaneously a few times until the map fills your screen. Hit "Control" with "-" similarly to return to the normal size).(update: Oct 4) At the Oct. 2nd County Council meeting, the Department of Planning and Zoning gave a presentation on the implementation of SB236 in Harford. Since Maryland has allowed counties to handle SB236 requirements administratively until 2018, Harford may continue modifying its implementation plans until then. Therefore the County Council announced that they will accept public input indefinitely.
- FOH Annual Report for 2011 (April 17, 2012) Read the highlights of our prior year.
- Master Plan Amendments (Mar 17, 2012) On February 21, the Harford County Council publicly introduced 42 amendments to the Master Plan. Since amendments can make huge changes to a bill, it's crucial that the public be able to read them. Since the County has not posted these amendments on their website, we are putting them on ours. They were provided by Councilman Joe Woods, District B.
The text of the amendments is on the title line link above. Three amendments say "as shown on the attached maps" Those links follow:
Amendments 43 through 50 were added later before the Master Plan (Bill 12-01) was approved by the County Council on March 6. Amendments 31 and 39 were withdrawn and replaced by (weakened) Amendments 49 and 50.
Amendment 42 was disapproved in spite of its strong defense by Councilmen Dion Guthrie and Joe Woods. This means the detailed Community Area Plan developed by the Joppa/Joppatown Community Council, and which has been part of the last two Master Plans, has been killed. The similarly-detailed community-developed Edgewood Community Area Plan has also been eliminated.
All other amendments were approved and are now part of the Master Plan.
- 2011/12 Master Plan and Land Use Element Plan: TOO LATE TO ACT! (Feb 18, 2012)
The draft 2012 Master Plan (link on title) was released on January 3, 2012 under Legislative Bill 12-01 for final public review. Please note that the term "Master Plan" actually includes the Master Plan itself, the Land Use Element Plan, specific Community Area Plans for each of Harford's 12 "Community Areas", and an Implementation Plan of actions to be taken. The public hearing was held on February 7 in the Council Chambers. Read our testimony.
Friends of Harford's major concerns still remaining include:
-- The Land Use Map must provide adequate detail. It's impossible to tell from the current map where individual property lines are with respect to the boundaries of the development envelope, rural villages, low intensity vs. industrial use areas, etc.
-- The proposed expansion of the Development Envelope between Aberdeen and Havre de Grace should not be allowed. Expansion now is unneeded, cripples revitalization of existing areas and destroys farms.
-- The Plan must call for our properties to be protected from unwarranted and intrusive lighting, glare, noise, vibration and dust/fumes/smoke. Unless the Plan specifically identifies the need for these quality-of-life protections, they will likely continue to be ignored.
- Visit Friends of Harford's Master Plan page to learn more.
- Read Friends of Harford's final comments to the County Executive on the Master Plan, dated Nov 9, 2011. Most of these comments are still valid.
- Read Friends of Harford's Guiding Principles for Master Plan Development.
- Visit the Harford County Master Plan Update page for all the supporting documents and history of this plan development.
- Maryland Watershed Implementation Plan (Feb 3, 2012) In December 2011, the preliminary draft of Maryland’s Phase II Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) was provided to the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) to review the draft and confirm that the proposed strategies would meet the Bay TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) goals. Based on comments from EPA, the draft of Maryland’s WIP was released for public review and comment on January 26, 2012. The public review and comment period was open from January 26, 2012 through March 9, 2012. Harford County's plan is here.
Friends of Harford
P.O. Box 294
Abingdon, Maryland 21009