Bel Air needs new and expanded roads by year 2000, comprehensive plan says Improvements depend on county, state funding

October 15, 1995|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,SUN STAFF

Bel Air needs to expand existing roads and build new ones to alleviate congestion if the Harford County seat is to avoid major traffic problems by the year 2000.

That's a top recommendation put forth in a proposed comprehensive plan for Bel Air. Such plans provide guidelines for a community's development.

The plan lists recommended highway improvements, but Carol Deibel, Bel Air's planning director, said the suggested improvements depend on the approval of, and funding by, the state and County.

The plan suggests that Moores Mill Road be widened to include turn lanes, and that Fountain Green Road be widened to four lanes from U.S. 1 in Hickory to Interstate 95.

Another recommendation is linking Vale Road with the Bel Air bypass, which would allow westbound traffic to use Moores Mill Road and Vale Road.

Bel Air, which wants to maintain its small-town atmosphere, is choking on Harford's rapid growth, she said.

What had been winding, country roads, such as Moores Mill Road between routes 22 and 24, have become main arteries.

One project recommended in the plan is extending the Bel Air bypass beyond the Route 543 and U.S. 1 intersection, at a cost of more than $11 million.

Mrs. Deibel said about 33 percent of the cars traveling through Bel Air belong to Harford residents living north of Moores Mill Road, in the northern part of the county.

Despite the request for an expanded road network, Mrs. Deibel is adamant that Bel Air retain its small-town atmosphere.

"We are not going to be another Towson. Our roads can't handle it and our citizens don't want it," she said.

The need to expand the road network is the most important part of Bel Air's 1995 Comprehensive Plan.

The plan, which can be examined at the Bel Air Town Hall, the Department of Planning and Zoning and county libraries, is based on the 1992 Maryland Growth Management Act. Every jurisdiction is required to update its comprehensive plan every six years to show how it will meet state-mandated goals, including a reduction in traffic congestion.

Residents are encouraged to read the plan and submit written comments before a final public hearing Nov. 16. Bel Air's commissioners are expected to vote on the plan in December.

The comprehensive plan has eight parts. In addition to transportation, it includes information on community services, economic development, historic preservation, housing, interjurisdictional coordination, land use and sensitive areas.

* Community services: Bel Air needs more parks and recreational activities. According to the plan, hundreds of children are turned away from the school system's baseball program because of a shortage of ball fields.

* Economic development: The town wants to revitalize Bond Street with landscaping and new sidewalks and curbs to encourage businesses to relocate there. Bel Air limits commercial buildings to three stories, and the comprehensive update limits the conversion of existing residences into doctor's offices or other commercial ventures.

* Historic preservation: The town plans to expand the tax-credit program to encourage the renovation of historic buildings.

The town also wants to change zoning requirements so that new construction is compatible with historic buildings.

* Housing: Bel Air,which consists of 1,862 acres, or less than 3 square miles, has just 198 acres of undeveloped land. Of those 198 acres, only about 45 could be used for constructing about 40 to 50 houses; the remainder is wetlands, on a flood plain or otherwise environmentally sensitive.

* Interjurisdictional coordination: Bel Air needs state and county approval and funding for most of its infrastructure, including roads, recreation and parks, and water and sewer.

* Land use: Bel Air wants to make the U.S. 1 retail strip more attractive with fewer traffic signals and signs. The town might use landscaping and new sidewalks to link the U.S. 1 commercial district with offices and service stores along Main Street.

* Sensitive areas: While most of the town's development occurred before environmental protection laws were in place, Bel Air wants to preserve and protect Bynum Run and Winter's Run. The streams can be protected by limiting development and by reforestation, among other things. About 22 percent of the town's acreage is permanent open space or publicly owned land.

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