When Harford voters enter voting booths Tuesday they'll be faced with the first referendum question they've encountered since 1972.
The Nov. 6 ballot question that has raised quite a bit of debate is Question B -- called by some the "mall question."
Question B will ask voters whether they want to keep or repeal the comprehensive rezoning plan adopted by the County Council last year.
However, if voters decide to repeal the zoning package, a contingency bill sponsored by Frederick J. Hatem, D-District F, will take effect.
The contingency bill limits the effect of the repeal, preserving the new zoning throughout the county except on the 200-acre parcel in Abingdon where Windsor Properties Inc. of Texas had proposed building a mall.
Windsor dropped its plans after deciding that the ballot question made spending money on the project too risky.
The council had rezoned the 200-acre property, upgrading it to so-called B-3 zoning, to allow construction of a mall.
While the Windsor Mall proposal the ballot issue was originally designed to address has been dropped, members of Harford Citizens for Controlled Growth are actively informing county residents that the ballot question is still important.
"We need to educate people as to what the ballot question is and explain what voting 'for' and 'against' means. We want people to vote against Question B," said Robert McLewee, an Abingdon resident and a spokesman for the group. "The language is confusing, to say the least."
McLewee said the citizens group is urging county residents to vote against the referendum question to send a message to the council to stop what they say are "unfair" rezoning practices, the destruction of wetlands and commercial sprawl.
Jeffrey D. Wilson, president of the council, agrees the vote on the referendum issue no longer centers around the mall.
"A mall could go there, but so could anything else that takes B-3 zoning," said Wilson. "B-3 zoning for that site would be affected if the rezoning is repealed."
B-3 zoning allows retail development for construction of a wide range of business uses, from a dentist's office to a beauty shop to a clothing store. Although a mall with a variety of stores is not expressly allowed under B-3 zoning, a developer can appeal to the county's Board of Zoning Appeals for special consideration. The proposal is then subject to a public hearing.
The property, located near Interstate 95 and Route 24, was initially zoned for less intense use, known as commercial-industrial, or C-I.
C-I zoning means the property could be developed with 20 to 30 different commercial or industrial projects, planning and zoning officials said. The original zoning would become effective again if the new zoning is repealed.
Dale Hess, one of the owners of the 200-acre property, said that now that the Windsor Mall plan has been withdrawn, he isn't concerned with what happens to the zoning on the property.