Council votes to keep disputed Emerald Drive extension in Bel Air open

June 12, 1994|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Sun Staff Writer

The Harford County Council has voted to keep open a controversial 120-foot extension of Emerald Drive in Bel Air.

The 4-3 vote Tuesday defeated a resolution introduced by District C Democrat Theresa Pierno that called for closing permanently the road connection between the Brentwood Park and Watervale neighborhoods.

"I see nothing here that makes Emerald Drive any different from any other community in Harford County," said Robert S. Wagner, who voted against closing the road.

He said it is not uncommon for neighborhoods to oppose increased traffic when communities are built nearby, "but I don't think the fix-all answer is to close the road," he said.

Council members Joanne Parrott, Barry Glassman and Philip Barker also voted against closing the road.

The Emerald Drive extension, which connects the older community of Watervale on the south with Brentwood Park on the north, has been a source of contention since 1986, when the 800-home Brentwood Park development was proposed.

When the extension opened in 1990, it was made one-way northbound to appease Watervale residents who had complained to the county that the increase in traffic would jeopardize residents' safety. There are no sidewalks on Emerald Drive, the main north-south route in the 43-home Watervale neighborhood.

Opponents of the resolution, who wanted to keep the road open and make it two-way, had argued that Brentwood Park residents needed Emerald Drive as a southbound route out of their development. They said closing it would just transfer safety problems to other streets, some narrower than Emerald Drive.

In voting to keep the road open, the council overruled the county's Road Closing Committee, which voted 4-1 in March to close the road. That vote for closing automatically sent the issue to the County Council.

"As a general rule, I do not like road closings," council President Jeffrey D. Wilson said in voting for the resolution. "My own opinion would be to close it for a period of time to evaluate the effect in both communities. But that is not the issue before us."

He said he was preparing a resolution on road improvements in Watervale and Brentwood Park to bring to the council this week.

"We need to make a statement about what we think should happen comprehensively in these two communities and the major roads that serve them," Mr. Wilson said. "If people see that their concerns are being addressed, that invites them to be patient."

In other business, the council:

* Approved an updated pay and classification plan for county employees. The plan includes a 3 percent cost-of-living increase for most employees beginning July 1. It also includes revised pay scales for law enforcement and correctional officers that Human Resources officials say are more competitive with other metropolitan counties.

* Adopted a resolution supporting renovation of the Aberdeen Community Services Building on U.S. 40 at Franklin Street.

The former Aberdeen High School, built in 1908 and enlarged in the 1920s and 1930s, has been used for county offices since the mid-1970s. County law requires Historic Preservation Commission and County Council approval of architectural changes in any historic building owned by the county.

Planned alterations to the three-story building include installation an elevator and creation of an outside handicap-access ramp by August 1995.

The building has been undergoing improvements since 1991, when an air conditioning system was installed and the heating system replaced. Its electrical work recently was brought up to code and the roof is being repaired.

A Family Support Center for young mothers and their children opened last month in the renovated lower level, and the space for the Aberdeen branch of the county Health Department and the Women, Infants and Children federal nutrition program is being expanded.

The building also will continue to house the Aberdeen Parks and Recreation Department; the Susquehanna Private Industry Council, a job-training program; a Veterans Administration counseling service; the Saturday Special program for the developmentally disabled; an office of the Aberdeen Boys and Girls Club; and a few Harford Community College classrooms.

* Passed an amended plumbing code that bans polybutylene pipe and tubing for water service. The plastic piping has been associated with excessive breakage and premature failure, the county's Department of Inspections, Licenses and Permits said.

* Approved C. Milton Wright High School student Noah Toly as the first student representative on the Harford County Board of Library Trustees. Noah will begin service as an ex officio, nonvoting trustee in July and will serve during his senior year.

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