A proposal by a church agency to build a foster-care complex for abused children near Fallston has been approved by a county zoning hearing examiner.
Hearing Examiner William F. Casey issued an 87-page opinion Wednesday, saying the United Methodist Board of Child Care could proceed with its plans if it meets 15 conditions.
The agency has proposed building five cottages on 26 acres at Harford and Reckord roads and caring for up to 60 abused and neglected children between the ages of 2 and 12.
Members of the Fallston Meadows Community Association have strongly opposed the project, citing traffic and safety concerns and potential sewage drainage problems.
The residents also have said they fear the facility would affect their wells. The area does not have public water or sewer service. The agency has been awarded a state permit to draw up to 6,300 gallons of water daily.
"I'm not shocked by the decision," said Joyce Glorioso, a Harford Road resident who fought against the shelter with her husband, Salvatore. "I'm disappointed, of course, but our attorney warned us we might lose at this level."
She said the Fallston Meadows Community Association has not met yet to discuss whether it will appeal Casey's decision to the County Council, which also sits as the county's Board of Zoning Appeals. But she said association members have discussed the possibility of an appeal from the beginning of the debate.
In approving the foster-care complex, Casey said the shelter can accept no more than 60 children. The only teen-agers who could be accepted at the center must accompany an sibling under 12, Casey said.
All other children accepted must be 12 or younger.
Other conditions Casey set include:
* Constructing a single-access drive from the complex to the Reckord Road entrance.
* Constructing an acceleration/deceleration lane near the site entrance.
* Widening Reckord Road to 24 feet between the access drive and Harford Road.
* Grading the intersection area at Harford and Reckord roads to improve visibility.
* Constructing an underground water storage tank at a site to be approved by the Fallston Volunteer Fire Department.
* Obtaining all necessary permits and inspections.
The issue has divided the community since public hearings began in September.
Some area residents, like the Gloriosos, were strongly opposed to the project after struggling "within our hearts," said Glorioso.
"We're notjust a bunch of unfeeling, uncaring monsters," she said in a previous interview with The Harford County Sun. "It's not the 'not-in-my-back-yard' syndrome. With this water situation, I'm frankly worried."
Other neighbors, like Debbie Metz, have had reservations about the non-profit agency's proposal but have been generally accepting of the proposal.
"If it goes in, it goes in, and we'll have to work with it," said Metz, who also had concerns about the facility's effects onwells. "If that's what's meant to be, I'll accept it and leave it toGod to take care of our questions and concerns."
Tim Murphy, a Harford Road resident who lives near the proposed site, said he's worried that a nearby stream, the Little Gunpowder, and abandoned mill buildings could present dangers to wandering or runaway children.
He,too, has had trouble deciding what stand to take on the issue. He's among area residents who wanted the proposal scaled down.
"This isfrom now on," said Murphy. "It's not like the children are going to grow up and move away. I guess we'll have to live with it and see what happens."