Abingdon Business Park

Abingdon Business Park – Forest Stand Delineation and Forest Conservation Plan
 
In response to plans to create an industrial park on a 326-acre parcel near the Route 24 and Interstate-95 interchange, land use advocacy groups from Harford County and beyond signed a letter addressed to Mr. Brad Killian, Director of Planning and Zoning for Harford County.

The proposed Abingdon Business Park is located within Abingdon Woods bounded by I-95, Route 24, Route 7 and Abingdon Road. The legal and practical concerns include extensive deforestation (planned clear cut of 220 acres of forest) and potential for negative impacts to water quality are detailed in the full letter printed below. 

The letter begins…

“The undersigned citizens and organizations are writing in opposition to the proposed Abingdon Business Park, located at the southeast corner of I-95 and Route 24. The undersigned have serious legal and practical concerns about the extensive deforestation proposed under the current plan and the associated negative impacts to water quality. This project proposes substantial deforestation that appears to violate local and state laws regarding forest conservation and is contrary to County policy as stated in the County’s Green Infrastructure Plan.”  READ LETTER Continue reading “Abingdon Business Park”

Auston Pyrolysis Decision

The Harford County Circuit Court upheld the decision in Case 5886 to deny the tire pyrolysis operation by Auston Transfer and Processing on 6 acres in Joppa off Route 7. 

The property, Auston Transfer, used for shredding and recycling scrap tires requested a new system to incinerate tires within a closed chamber.  The property is zoned CI- Commercial Industrial.  Planning & Zoning approved the use in this zoning category. 

Within the time frame allowed, two Joppa citizens appealed the determination made by the Director and asked that the matter be reviewed by the County’s Hearing Examiner.  They were assisted by the People’s Counsel.  That decision was appealed because it considered the determination of the Planning and Zoning Director to allow this use in CI, was improper and that the pyrolysis system belonged in GI-General Industrial zoning.

As of this decision, the Hearing Examiner, County Council and now the Circuit Court all agree that the Director of Planning & Zoning overreached his authority and made a “legal error” in deciding to allow this use in CI. 

In addition, the Circuit Court added that material and information which is not in the Zoning Code itself, should be made available to the public.  In this case it was the Industrial Codes used by the Department of Planning & Zoning. 

Why is this relevant?

Friends of Harford is sharing news of this decision because it is an example of how the system is supposed to work. The community had concerns about the potential for negative effects to the environment and of the proximity of the tire burning near their homes. At each level, the facts were brought to light and the decision was made not to allow this type of facility in a Commercial Industrial Zoning. Had the tire pyrolysis plant been allowed in CI, it would have set precedent for future types of facilities in CI zoning.

 

Zoning Changes Update & New Scorecard

Friends of Harford News and Views
June, 2019

Bill 19-016 – Zoning Code Changes- Public Hearing Input- June 4, 2019

Recently, Friends of Harford President, Stephanie Flasch provided public input on Bill 19-016 (Zoning Code Changes) See full text of comments here. 

See full text of Bill 19-016 HERE. 

There is still time for citizens to send their comments to the County Council.
Call or email the County Council at (410) 638-3343 or council@harfordcountymd.gov 

Friends of Harford tracks the voting records for land use legislation via the SCORECARD. The Friends of Harford scorecard will be updated with amendments and voting record for land use legislation. 

Scorecard

Friends of Harford Annual Report and Meeting Presentations-2019

Thanks to all who attended the Friends of Harford Annual Meeting on April 28, 2019 at the McFaul Center. Annual Report and Presentations in links below. 

Welcome 2019 Board of Directors

President Stephanie Flasch 
C0-Vice Presidents Alan Sweatman & Bill Onorato
Secretary Lee Crush & Mary Ann Forgan
Treasurer Gloria Moon
Communications  Beth Poggioli 

Board Members 2019
Judy Blomquist, Morita Bruce, Veronica Cassilly, Patti Dallam, Glenn Dudderar, Janet Hardy, Sally LaBarre 

Friends of Harford Annual Report 2018-2019

Friends of Harford 2019 Annual Meeting Presentation

Public Input on Proposed Abingdon Bus. Park from Gunpowder Riverkeeper

Grateful for strong community partners like Gunpowder Riverkeeper for shining a light on the development process and the potential negative impacts to the environment.

Letter provided to the March 6, 2019 Harford County Development Advisory Committee for the proposed Abingdon Business Park. 

To View Full Document CLICK HERE

 

Special Exceptions in the Zoning Code

Friends of Harford News and Views
February, 2018

Special Exceptions
 
The Zoning Code tells us what we may do with our property. Build a house? 7 houses? A restaurant? A gas station? We read the code to find out what uses are automatically permitted, but there are exceptions to the rule. If the code shows a use as a special exception, it may be approved with certain extra conditions to protect the neighbors, or it may not be approved at all. That use must also be compatible with what is already allowed in the neighborhood.
 
A Special Exception is unique in that neighbors can object to the proposed site plan during a required, formal hearing. The public may be represented for free if the People’s Counsel agrees to represent the interests of the public.
 
The overriding rule for a Special Exception is if it causes too much harm to the neighbors, and changing the site plan won’t stop the harm, it should not be approved.

In all there are 10 requirements** for approval of a Special Exception. So for example, the code states one may build a sawmill in CI (Commercial Industrial) or GI (General Industrial) zoned properties, but one must ask for a Special Exception for a sawmill on an AG (Agricultural) zoned property.

A Hearing Examiner decides whether the request is approved or denied for that plan at that particular location. The decision may be appealed to the County Council which sits as the Board of Appeals.
 
1.  Zoning Code, Article IX, Special Exceptions page 315
     
 2.  Friends of Harford Newsletter-Public Participation for Special Exception
 
**  Special Exceptions consider the effects of the proposed site plan on: the number of people living or working in the area; traffic conditions; orderly growth of the neighborhood and any fiscal impact the County may have because of the approval;  the effect of odors, gas, smoke, fumes, vibration, glare and noise on the surrounding properties; if there is adequate police, fire, water, sewer or garbage services; if the development is consistent with good planning; any harm to existing structures nearby such as churches, schools, etc.; environmental impact or opportunities for recreation or harm to sensitive land; the preservation of cultural and historic buildings or places.

2017 Comprehensive Zoning Review WRAP-UP

Comprehensive rezoning is over for another 6 to 8 years.  This round there were 115 requests by residents or their agents.  Every Councilman introduced amendments to grant a more intense use for a property than the one received in the legislation as presented by County Administration. 

It should be noted that a Land Use Study conducted by the County in 2011 and again in 2014 declared that there was more than adequate land available for every use, be it residential, business or commercial-industrial available well beyond the next CZR era. The study also showed there will be a need for more Residential zoning long before there is a need for more Business or Industrial zoned land. 

Rezoning to a more intense District (up-zoning) often means additional facilities/services will be required from the County.  The cost of funding these new roads and other required infrastructure will be borne by the taxpayers.  Harford County elected officials are responsible for balancing the citizens’ quality of life and taxpayer funding for future infrastructure requirements caused by approved zoning changes. 

In all, 836 acres received requests for rezoning.  Approximately 250 acres were up-zoned from less intense to more intense categories of zoning, e.g., from agricultural to residential, from residential to business, or business to industrial.  Approximately 80 acres were up-zoned in intensity, e.g., R1 rezoned to R3, B1 rezoned to B2, etc.

Comprehensive Zoning Review Bill 17-015 with Amendments CHART

To sum up by District:

FOH is satisfied with the District A results.  District A had 20 requests for more intense rezoning.  Three up-zonings were supported by the County, two of which had the endorsement of the community.  One additional up-zoning was by amendment from the Councilman. About 8 acres went from Residential to Business or Industrial zoning, while about 10 acres went from B2 to B3 zoning.

FOH is severely disappointed with District B rezoning. District B had 25 requests with 2 requests withdrawn.  About 57 acres were granted more intense kinds of zoning, including 50 Agricultural acres converted to Business or medium-intensity Residential zoning. Plus, 14 acres increased intensity within the same zoning category (majority were from B2 to B3, the Highest Business Intensity).

FOH strongly opposed the high intensity up-zoning of about 45 acres at the outer edges of the Development Envelope (intersection of Mountain Road (Route 152) and Route 1), recently added and approved July 2016 by Harford County Council.  Severe up-zoning was granted even though there are rural homes and a farm in Agricultural Preservation on the Development Envelope’s boundary in this area .  The decision was in violation of HarfordNEXT, and contrary to the rationale applied in District F, where the County reduced an owner’s request for R2 zoning to only R1 at the Development Envelope boundary near rural homes.  FOH is disappointed with the representation and lack of explanation from District B County Councilman and Administration regarding the approval of intense up-zoning to R2 and B3 in the Fallston Community area.

FOH was reasonably satisfied with the results of District C.  District C had 17 requests.  While we disapproved of the conversion of 3 R2-zoned properties to B2 or Commercial Industrial,  these totaled less than 1.5 acres. 

FOH is pleased with the results of District D.  District D had 23 requests.  We supported the community in their work to insure that the 3 properties at the intersection of Routes 23 and 24 were restricted to R1 zoning, and that the Madonna property remained AG.

FOH was also content with the results of District E.  District E had 11 requests.  We agree with the amendment to rezone the 6 requests next to Ripkin Stadium to B1, and the zoning has been coordinated with the city of Aberdeen.

FOH was very disappointed with District F results.  District F had 20 requests.  In spite of Harford expecting to need residential units long before the county runs out of either Business or Industrial-zoned land, District F sacrificed 122 acres of Residential land in favor of yet more Industrial land.  There was a net loss of 100 acres of high-density (primarily R4, some R3) residential land converted to Industrial, partially offset by a loss of 21 acres of  Agricultural land that was rezoned to R1 (lowest density).  The only good news was the Treese Way development off Laurel Brook was not up-zoned and remains R1;  it has many  Natural Resource Districts.

In summary, Districts A, C, D and E were largely acceptable and we thank the Administration and Council members from those districts.  We remain strongly opposed to the rezoning results of Districts B and F.

Final Bill 17-015 Chart with Amendments & FOH Evaluation

Overlays – What Are They?

What Is An Overlay?

Officially it is “any specially mapped district which is subject to supplementary regulations or requirements for development”.  Every parcel of land in the County is zoned. An overlay sits on top of that zoning and modifies the normal usage allowed for every property which lies “under” the overlay. Overlays may restrict or enhance development. Restrictive overlay examples are the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area and the Floodplain district overlays.

Because the land beneath the overlay is fragile, certain types of development are not allowed even though the County has approved zoning for more intense development. Many of our restrictive overlays are handed down by State legislation. The past several years has seen the growth of development enhancing overlay legislation. A good example is the Edgewood Neighborhood Overlay District. Zoning restrictions are relaxed in this region with the hope of spurring the revitalization of commerce, residential neighborhoods and civic pride. Rather than rezoning large districts and changing every zoning regulation to reflect the desired new use, an overlay easily enacts the change in allowed uses by a single act of legislation.

The ease with which an overlay may happen should make us stop and think. An overlay may not always be a good idea. Several years ago, an overlay was proposed that would allow industrial use on agriculturally zoned land. Quite a change in zoning. While the underlying zoning remains unchanged, the over-the-top overlay may cause significant change.