The envelope, please

October 20, 2011

Opening the envelope at an awards show is the suspenseful buildup to the announcement of a winner: best picture, top dog, most original costume or whatever.

The only winners if the development envelope, Harford County's chief planning tool, is opened are likely to be a few well-positioned developers. It's been 14 years since Harford County expanded the territory it regards as prime for development, and that territory still includes a fairly substantial amount of land prime for building. At this juncture, the county is updating its key land use plan and the update being proposed by the county includes adding to the development envelope along Route 40 between Aberdeen and Havre de Grace and along Route 1 in the Fallston area.

Though both areas have seen substantial piecemeal development over the years, the public water and sewer facilities serving them are not as robust as in other parts of the county. In the Route 40 case, Aberdeen and Havre de Grace, which covet the territory separating them, have the closest facilities, but those are lacking.

Along Route 1, the expanded area would be served by the Fallston Sanitary Sewer Subdistrict, which was an extension of the county sewer service initially extended to deal with failing individual systems in an area that has been developed for decades. It was not intended as a way of expanding development, but preventing commercial blight.

Expanding the development envelope in either of the two suggested areas may seem like a natural move considering the development already in place, but a look below the surface at the water and sewer infrastructure reveals a substantial public cost is likely to be incurred a few years down the road if this proposal becomes official public policy.

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