A developer is seeking an extension of the county's public sewer service that could speed growth along the Route 1/Route 543 corridor north of Bel Air.
The county health, planning and zoning, and public works departments have endorsed developer Stanley Lloyd's request to amend the master sewer and water plan to make service available throughout the Hickory area.
The change would give Lloyd the sewer capacity to build a small shopping strip on an 8.49-acre parcel where the Friar Tuck restaurant and the Hickory Inn motel sit.
Extending a public sewer line to Lloyd's property would allow other developers to petition for service in the area stretching north from C. Milton Wright High School along Route 543 to the intersection with Route 1.
The mostly rural area makes up the northern reaches of Harford's development envelope, a triangular region in the south and center of the county that the county master plan designates for residential and commercial zoning.
Extending county sewer service past the high school would make it easier to build in the corridor, whose residents depend on private septic systems.
"It's a planned growth area," said Planning and Zoning Director William Carroll. "There are a lot of places just waiting for sewer and water."
The county does not allow expansion of the public sewer system unless the user pays for the cost.
Under the proposal,Lloyd would pay for the cost of extending the 16-inch sewer main to the intersection and recoup his investment if other builders or residents petition to be hooked up to the county system.
The county would collect a hook-up fee surcharge and pass it on to Lloyd. No cost estimate is available for extending the sewer line.
The septic drain field on Lloyd's property was backed up Thursday morning, forming afetid green pond that extended through a wooded area along Route 543.
Half a mile south on Route 543, Doris Buchanan complained of thesame problem at her home, where she has lived for 20 years.
"I'm all for the sewer system because it seems like the ground just doesn't take up or absorb the (septic) water around here," she said.
TheHealth Department sent a letter to Planning and Zoning last month supporting Lloyd's request because it would give residents an alternative to private septic systems, which can foul ground water.
The intersection already has small-scale commercial development at all four corners, including a florist, gas station and convenience store, all dependent on septic systems.
"What's there on that tract got therelong before modern septic systems," said Health Department environmental officer John Lamb. "We don't normally endorse developers' requests, but we think thisis good for the community."
Much of the area north of C. Milton Wright High is wetland that is not suitable for further septic drainage.
The high water table does not allow the waste to percolate, which causes "ponding and sewage that's not going anywhere except into the ground water," Lamb said.
Buchanan said sheis worried about the development that would inevitably follow expansion of public sewer service.
"I've raised my children here. It's anice place to live," she said. "But we've seen a lot of changes in the area. The traffic is terrible here. It's the one thing I don't like."
The area has a zoning mix that would allow construction of more housing -- ranging in density from 3 1/2 units per acre to seven units per acre -- as well as some office and research development space. But public sewer service could spur more developer interest.
"A great deal of development could occur in that area," said Harford planning chief Arden Holdredge. "Whenever the next comprehensive rezoning occurs, we would see requests for rezoning."
The county charter requires a new zoning map by 1997.
The Department of Public Works supports Lloyd's request because it would serve a planned-growth areathat might otherwise require taxpayer money to extend public sewer service, said Jerry Wheeler, deputy director of the water and sewer division.
The department will include the request as an amendment tothe master water and sewer plan, which the County Council will consider during a comprehensive review. Public hearings on the changes to the plan will take place in late September or early October.