Perryman residents unimpressed by plans for peninsula

Warehouse zoning replaced by open space, housing and offices

October 12, 2001|By Lane Harvey Brown | Lane Harvey Brown,SUN STAFF

Harford County planners took a proposal for developing the Perryman peninsula back to its architects -- the residents of the community -- for approval last night, and residents met the plan with skepticism.

Mark Sinclair, a resident of Forest Greens, said the plan was not what the residents wanted.

"This was the best of what we were allowed to pick," he said, noting that the plan looks good now but that residents "are concerned about ramifications 15 to 20 years down the line."

The multilayered plan -- the result of three community "visioning" sessions -- would preserve about half of the area as green space. It features three residential neighborhoods clustered around a village center and a MARC rail station; low-rise office campuses bordering the neighborhoods; and warehouses.

It would be a sharp change from existing zoning, which would allow about 28 million square feet of warehouse and distribution space to be built on the five-mile-long strip of land between Aberdeen Proving Ground and the Bush River.

The plan would also cut off some roads and build new ones, including a route skirting Aberdeen Proving Ground, to separate residential traffic from tractor-trailer trucks.

When planning director Joseph Kocy asked the group of about 60, "Did we get it right?" only a few people clapped or raised their hands.

It was a subdued reaction compared with the first meeting of the visioning process months ago, when angry residents threw their survey papers in the direction of a consultant leading the workshop.

Earlier in the day, Kocy said the plan is thoroughly Smart Growth, from its office-residential clusters to its respect for the environment. "I think it's fantastic. We started with a sow's ear of an industrial park. I think this is a designer's silk purse."

Meg Andrews, a planner with the Maryland Department of Transportation, said: "We're pleased with [the plan] so far. It's a great improvement over what the county's original master plan would have been."

She said MDOT wants to see more details on the plan's traffic implications. "It's premature to say what we'll do next," she said.

Kocy said the county will work with the state to hone those details. "This is the broad brush," he said. "We will pull out those fine drafting pencils to create a [final] plan."

That plan would be submitted to the County Council for approval.

He said work is under way on a study, due in the next month, to determine whether a market exists for offices and high-tech laboratories on the Perryman peninsula.

The peninsula was earmarked as a growth area in the 1950s. In the mid-1990s, the area was rezoned for warehouses and distribution centers. But when county and state planners sat down last year to study road improvements needed to accommodate growth, the solutions -- estimated to run at least $150 million -- were deemed too expensive.

And residents, who had chosen the warehouses over a crush of residential development, were finding the steady stream of tractor-trailers from new, expansive distribution centers weren't exactly the neighbors they'd hoped for.

"The impacts have obviously been felt," said Anton Nelessen, the urban planner who led the visioning workshops.

"This plan's hallmark is the extraordinary amount of open space," he said. "What they don't want more of is warehousing."

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