Harford panel rejects builders' proposal on development area Instead, council approves a task force to study the issue in coming year

July 03, 1996|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

The Harford County Council appears likely to hold the line on urban sprawl -- at least for now.

Turning aside a proposal by homebuilders to expand the county development area, the council instead agreed last night with the county executive's proposal to appoint a task force to study the issue during the coming year.

The task force idea was proposed in an amendment to the master plan introduced at the request of County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann. A final vote on the master plan -- the county's blueprint for growth -- is set for Tuesday.

The Harford chapter of the Home Builders Association of Maryland had proposed adding 12,000 acres, consisting mostly of farmland, to the county's growth area to accommodate home construction for the next 30 years.

But residents fed up with crowded roads and congested schools had urged the county to reject the request, which could have added 18,000 homes to the south-central part of the county.

Most of the nearly 60 amendments the council voted on last night were minor changes to the master plan drafted by the administration. County officials acknowledge the growth area eventually will expand, but want the task force to investigate where and how expansion should occur.

"We have children born in this county 20 years ago who want to live here," said council President Joanne Parrott.

Parrott said the amendment creating the task force addresses a flaw she found in the administration's master plan. She said some provision is needed to plan for growth beyond 2002, when a new master plan will be adopted.

"We need to look at alternatives that are available to Harford beyond the 10-year period provided in the development envelope," said Arden Holdredge, the county planning and zoning director.

The task force would be made up of community leaders, developers, farmers and business leaders. It will study possible locations for growth, evaluate what services will be needed and xTC recommend community design standards. The task force is to deliver its report within a year.

"It's not what we had hoped for," said Frank F. Hertsch, a lawyer for the homebuilders. "Instead of making a plan to make a plan, I'd rather get something done."

In 25 years, the number of Harford households has jumped from 32,000 to 73,600, due in part to residents fleeing Baltimore and Baltimore County.

The proposed master plan is the result of more than a year's work from a committee of residents, business leaders, environmentalists and planners. The conservative document permits modest expansion of the T-shaped growth district where 85 percent of the county's 210,000 residents live. The plan's only expansion of the district is for 500 more acres of industrial land in Perryman and an additional 300 acres for as many as 406 high-priced homes near the Todd Lakes development outside Bel Air. By maintaining most of the current boundaries, residents hope the county will be able to catch up with providing the schools, roads, libraries and parks needed by existing communities.

Pub Date: 7/03/96

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