Harford County filed a brief to Harford County Circuit Court on January 18, 2023 changing the County’s position on the current Forest Conservation Plan (FCP) for Abingdon Business Park.
The County is now in agreement with the Maryland Supreme Court, which raised concerns about the current FCP. Any permits issued under the current plan are no longer valid and there is a stop work order.
The Save Abingdon Woods Coalition took this position back in September of 2019 when meeting with the Harford County Director of Planning and Zoning to point out a number of serious deficiencies in the current Forest Conservation Plan and to ask the county to seek a new one by starting from scratch with a new Forest Stand Delineation and a new Forest Conservation Plan.
Save Abingdon Woods and Friends of Harford and others are delighted to learn that the current administration agrees with this position.
“Today the court recognized the importance of the state’s forest protection law and ensured attempts to bypass the law can be easily challenged in court.” Chesapeake Bay Foundation Director of Litigation Paul Smail
Friends of Harford, Inc. focuses on Harford’s land use issues, working for a fair balance between the rights of those wanting to develop a property and the rights of neighbors who might be impacted by that development.
Land use is controlled by the County Executive and County Council members.
In anticipation of the upcoming election, Friends of Harford is asking candidates for County Executive and County Council to respond to the questions below, so we may understand your perspectives and reasoning on these issues.
Responses from candidates are due back to us by June 20, 2022 via email.
The Master Plan, Harford NEXT, calls for a study on expanding the development envelope in an area beginning at I-95/MD 543 moving northwest along MD 543/Shucks Road to Harford Community College and beyond to US 1 at Hickory. What is your view on expanding the development envelope, specifically the aforementioned MD 543 proposal? Will you support any expansion of the Development Envelope? If yes, what location(s) and reason for expansion?
Would you approve a request by a landowner or other interested party, as done in neighboring Baltimore County, to downzone their property? If yes, under what circumstances?
Would you consider introducing legislation to define, measure and reduce noise, light and air pollution?
Traffic congestion problems are encountered daily by Harford County citizens. What do you propose to address traffic issues?
Would you support amending approval procedures of Zoning Code 267-39 – Retention and Afforestation, specifically (F) tree waiver grants and, to commission a Waiver Advisory Board?
Do you commit to meeting with advocates to discuss the amendment or repeal of legislation that citizens find changed the Zoning Code unfavorably? For example, Bill 21-003 Motor Vehicle Filling or Service Stations and Bill 18-036 Zoning Definitions Intermittent Streams and Perennial Streams?
Do you approve of Light Industrial (LI), Commercial Industrial (CI) or General Industrial (GI)) zoning adjacent to residential communities or within a Village District? If not, would you amend the zoning code to uphold your views? Would you research and recommend increased protections for residences from commercial and industrial neighbors by increasing buffers and their types?
Do you support legislation to create graduated zoning districts next to residential except Mixed Use districts?
Would you consider reestablishing the public’s right to receive a timely interpretation of the Zoning Code rather than the current determination definition used? If not, why?
FOH OPINION– Failure to submit the opportunity for individual Council members to support the moratorium again shows a lack of transparency in the local legislative process. Seven Council members voted to approve the moratorium and now not one of them were given the opportunity to speak to the public about the bill.
County Executive Glassman vetoed the bill May 2, 2022 and County Council President Vincenti chose not to discuss overriding the veto the following legislative session. By Harford County charter, the council has until the following legislative session, which would have been the May 3, 2022 meeting, the day after the veto to override the veto of a bill.
The legislative branch, led by Vincenti should have been aware of the process of veto and should have been prepared to discuss this in the presence of citizens. Instead, there was no discussion, disappointing many citizens.
Abingdon Business Park and Perryman Peninsula share burdens from proposed mega-warehouse complexes. One writer to the Aegis shared those concerns.
The following Op-Ed was published in the AEGIS January 26, 2022
County should halt warehouse developments to protect environment
I watched the last couple meetings of the Harford County Council and was interested in the comments about Perryman.
The citizens living in Perryman have every right to be concerned about adding more warehouses, especially ones built on Harford County wells. Also more heavy truck traffic on county roads increases the already dangerous conditions. All this is above and beyond what they should have to deal with. Developing this property would increase environmental damage to Bush River and the Chesapeake Bay.
Billy Boniface, chief adviser to County Executive Barry Glassman, wrote to the owners of the Perryman property and suggested they put the property in preservation. He indicated this would create a lifetime legacy for the county and the property owners. Members of the Abingdon Business Park coalition have asked Boniface to write a similar letter to the owners of this 325 acre property. He did not acknowledge this request. Citizens involved with Abingdon coalition have also voiced concerns at the council meetings. They have written letters and met individually with their representatives. They mentioned the vacant warehouse and retail spaces, concerns about the effect of pollution, heavy traffic and loss of property values. The folks in Abingdon, as in Perryman, want to see a halt to warehouses that are adjacent to or in residential areas regardless of the zoning. They want to make sure the Ha Ha Branch, Otter Point Creek, Bush River and the Bay are not contaminated by heavy truck traffic and related chemical runoff.
This council voted to include Abingdon Business Park in the enterprise zone in April 2019. This was a bad decision.
Enterprise zone tax relief is for under developed property or property that needs revitalization. This incentive is to create good paying jobs. The enterprise zone investment is to create an economic engine for the county. Warehouse jobs are not high paying jobs. Robotic machinery is often used in place of workers. And as we know, warehouses often stay vacant at county taxpayer expense.
Destroying woods, wildlife, streams and rivers can never be undone. Harford County residents deserve better.
Janet Hardy, Abingdon
For more information on the opposition to proposed projects click on links below.
The project negatively impacts Otter Point Creek (a Tier II watershed) and further degrades water quality in the Bush River and the Chesapeake Bay. Overall the project harms the quality of life for Harford County’s citizens.
Friends of Harford requested that MDE revoke the Wetland and Waterways Permit.
Sponsor: Council President Vincenti for County Executive Glassman Adds CSEGS to Zoning Code definition as a principal use of sun for electric power generation
Added as a Special Development where Director of Planning & Zoning has sole authority to allow
Limits to 2 megawatts of capacity (AC)
Not allowed in AG
Not allowed in Natural Resource District or Chesapeake Bay Critical area
All residential has acreage limitations and added buffering
Allowed in all business, commercial and industrial districts with current buffers
Required decommissioning to original land with a payment to the County of 115% of anticipated cost for the entirety of the use For more Information
FOH: Opinion: A Special Exception rather than a Special Development should be required for approval to allow neighbors the opportunity to weigh in on the use. This use should be allowed in the AG District.
Amendments introduced by Councilman Wagner and sponsored by all County Council members.
New Definition- Viewshed as an area of land, water or other environmental element that is visible from a fixed vantage point, in context with historic preservation. Viewsheds may be described as areas of particular scenic or historic value that are deemed worthy of preservation from impacts resulting from development or other forms of change.
Replaces uses and districts with the following: • Requires the use to be a Special Exception (not a Special Development) • GI District will be a permitted use and not require a Special Exception • Removes parcel size limitations • Increases structure location to 250′ from offsite dwelling unit from 200′ • Adds that no location will be within the Viewshed of a property listed on Harford County Historical list. • Site shall avoid visual corridors that are scenic Viewsheds or areas. Shall not be located within 1 mile on either side of any designated scenic by-way on any County or State maintained road. • Increases time for restoration of site for decommissioning from 6 to 12 months. • Increases bond, surety, letter of credit or other financial assurance from 115% to 125% of anticipated cost of removal. Vote was unanimous in approval of all amendments.
Friends of Harford President, Stephanie Flasch, provided input for Bill 21-011 during the February 2, 2021 County Council Meeting. Remarks below.
RE: FOH Supports Bill 21-001 Solar Energy with Amendments
Friends of Harford (FOH) is dedicated to advocating for responsible land use policies and practices that reduce environmental impacts. We commend the County’s legislative efforts for alternative energy initiatives. Bill 21-001, Solar Energy, is an opportunity to enact small scale clean energy sources but must be amended to reduce negative impacts on Harford County’s landscape so the legislation is a win, win for all.
FOH reviewed solar energy best practices,
HarfordNext Environmental Stewardship and Community Planning Areas chapters,
plus solar energy legislation in effect in other Maryland Counties to evaluate
the Solar Energy bill. FOH requests the
Define Power and Regenerative Plants,
Harford County’s large scale solar projects permitted in GI district. The definition can clarify the difference
between large scale solar utilities and the Community Solar Energy Generating
Systems (CSEGS) as an accessory or small-scale solar development. The language in the both definitions need to
identify key differences. Development Standards B (8) allows up to 3 CSEGS on
one parcel; how is this different from large scale solar
Change Permitted Use from a Special
Development (SD) to a Special Exception (SE).
Allowing the community and adjacent property owners the ability to
provide feedback on the impacts proposed to their property or community. The
county has no experience with a small scale solar accessories in the designated
zoning, therefore a Special Exception would at least potentially allow neighbors
to help set site-specific requirements to protect themselves, or if necessary,
to stop the project. An SD denies both possibilities.
Solar developments should not exclude
Agricultural districts. Agricultural protections can be designed to address
different developmental-related risks.
For example, sitings prohibited in Rural Legacy Areas, on land under
conservation or preservation easement plus a two-mile buffer from designated
Scenic Byways in the County. These type
of restrictions assist in preserving the local heritage, the scenic views, and
protect against the detraction of events held in agricultural areas. The addition of the Agricultural District
allows a Use that does not destroy valuable land with permanent
Incorporate The Department of Natural
Resources guidance on Solar Site Pollinator Habitat designations into
Development Standard Section B (5) to gain benefits at the solar site and
enhance habitats surrounding the site.
Use limitation must be included. Maximum square feet occupied on lot or a
percentage of the land to ensure the size is appropriate for the districts and
minimizes the impact on the communities. Similar to Use limitations sited for
Accessory Use and Structures § 267-27.
CSEGS projects should be limited to
balance County initiatives with Maryland Commercial Property Assessed Clean
Energy (Md-PACE) program. Harford County Code, Chapter 123 Article VIII: Clean
Energy Loan Program provides incentives and opportunities for clean energy
programs; solar energy sources on existing structures.
Bill 21-001, Solar Energy is a step in
the right direction to enact standards for small-scale solar projects but
requires amendments to reduce the long term impacts on Harford County’s
landscape and communities. Thank you for your consideration for Bill 21-001
Friends of Harford (FOH) requests the Harford County Council to AMEND Zoning Code 267-39 (F); REMOVING the Director of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) as the only grantor of waiver for trees, shrubs, plants and specific areas considered priorities for retention and protection as described in 267-39 (D).
In addition, CREATE legislation to commission a Waiver Advisory Board to include members from various county organizations: Environmental Advisory Board, DPZ, Planning Advisory Board, Harford Soil and Conservation Board, Parks and Recreation Board, Historic Conservation and Harford County Forestry Board.
Introduction and approval of an amendment to Zoning Code 267-39 adding an oversight committee for granting waivers for trees, shrubs and plants accordingly is the FIRST STEP to reassuring the citizens of Harford County that areas that contribute long-term aesthetic, environmental, and economic benefits will be reviewed in a fair and appropriate manner when development of these area are requested.