When Theresa M. Pierno looks at the county's new 4-inch-thick masterplan for water and sewer services, she sees a document that should have a telling effect on the course of future development in Harford County.
For one, it would lay the groundwork for controlling where and when development occurs even in areas of the county already designated for intense growth.
And it would entice developers to be more certain they will follow through on projects before they seek county approval.
The plan is so new most major builders and developers in the county have not yet had time to study its ramifications.
Now under review by the County Council, the proposal could be as important as Harford's 1988 land-use plan for development because of the new policies it proposes, say government officials such as Pierno, a Democrat and County Councilrepresentative for District C.
"(The plan) is going to have greatweight when it's passed into law," she said. "This is an important piece of legislation. It's going to determine future growth."
The council had the first in a series of work sessions to discuss the water and sewer plan Tuesday. A public hearing on the plan is scheduled for Nov. 12, but Pierno said it will be several months before it is approved.
As proposed, the master plan would determine where new water and sewer services are extended during the next 10 years.
Amongthe new policies proposed in the document:
* A basis for the county to establish an adequate public facilities law for water and sewerservices. The law would limit development to sites that have sufficient services.
* A timetable that ties the construction of water and sewer lines to the county's approval process for developments.
Developers who do not receive preliminary approval for their building plans within a six-month period would find their projects pushed downthe priority list for water and sewer services.
* Testing water quality of all streams for pollution as a means of looking for areas of the county in need of public sewer and water.
This area of the proposal is a point of debate because the county
has no system or manpower for testing streams, Pierno said.
"We feel (the plan) is amajor deviation than what we've had in the past," said Jerald R. Wheeler, deputy director of the water and sewer division of the county Department of Public Works, which has been working on the master plan with the county Department of Planning and Zoning and the state Department of the Environment since January.
In the existing master plan, written in 1984, practically every undeveloped tract in the county's "development envelope" is on the list for immediate water and sewer services, Wheeler said. Most of the proposed expansions are locatedin the envelope too.
The "envelope" is the area designated in themaster land use plan for intense residential, commercial and industrial development. It spans roughly from Joppatowne in the south along the U.S. 40 and Interstate 95 corridor to Havre de Grace in the north, and along the Route 24 corridor from Edgewood to Hickory, just north of Bel Air
The current system for expanding water and sewer services lacks planning, Wheeler says. Expansion often occurs to properties in the development envelope as they are developed. Under the proposal, there would be a set schedule for where and when lines would be extended, thus channeling growth into specific areas.
"The old document is unrealistic as to representing how much property would be developed," he added. "There's no way we could build enough facilities for the plan as it exists."
Under the proposed plan, land designated for development would be put on a schedule to receive water and sewer services within five years, or between six and 10 years.
Most land targeted for specific building projects would receive services within five years.
But if a developer does not receive preliminary approval for a project within six months of submitting his or her plan to the county, the property would be "downgraded" to get services between six and 10 years.
Wheeler noted that it may be difficult for some developers to get preliminary approvals for projects in areas that do not have adequate water and sewer services.
The county plans to update the plan every six months to keep current with development projects.
The new plan outlines expansions and improvements that would cost more than $41.2 million for water services and more than$100.5 million for sewer services. County expenses for most water and sewer expansion work are recouped through user and tap fees.
Themost expensive projects include a $19 million connection into the Baltimore water line that travels through Harford County and the $68 million expansion of the Sod Run sewage treatment plant. These projectswill be partially paid for with money borrowed in the bond market. Money borrowed for the Sod Run project would be paid off through a newfee to be charged to developers.
Most of the other projects involve expansions that would be paid for by developers who request the services for their subdivisions, the plan says.
The plan is based onthe county's population increasing to an estimated 227,980 by 2000, from 182,130 in 1991.
The plan says that during the next decade 107 developments, containing as many as 42,000 homes, could come under construction or be proposed. Some of the developments are already under way. County administrators estimate, however, that only one third of the houses will be built in the next decade.
The county provides water and sewer services to about 70,000 customers. Another 42,000 customers are served by separate systems in Aberdeen, Bel Air, Havre de Grace and Joppatowne.
The number of customers countywide is expected to increase to about 135,000 by 2000.