Harford bill would gut regulations of rural gas stations

October 26, 2011

Friends of Harford strongly opposes Bill 11-48 Gas Station Reforms pending before the Harford County Council. The "reforms" it proposes requires the council to surrender its authority and responsibility to protect Harford's private drinking water wells from gasoline contamination.

Harford's zoning code already provides a process for "nonconforming" rural gas stations to expand. The process includes a public hearing so citizens whose homes and businesses will be affected can be heard. Permission to expand is granted or denied by the council on the merits of each individual case, and approval can include added conditions or restrictions to protect neighboring properties. Bill 11-48 threatens private property rights by eliminating citizen input and allows any gasoline station to expand whenever it wants regardless of impacts on the neighbors.

Since this bill automatically allows gas stations to expand while eliminating all reviews and changes expanded rural gas stations from "nonconforming" to "permitted" uses, it is our opinion that this bill will also be used in court to justify new gas stations in rural Harford.

We strongly urge the council not to abandon these protections. Before this bill was introduced, I and other community members participated in meetings on this bill with Councilmen Joseph M. Woods and Chad Shrodes along with the lawyer who drafted the bill. Both councilmen have large numbers of rural homeowners who will be impacted, clearly understand the issues, and both declined to sponsor this bill.

Morita Bruce, Fallston

The writer is president, Friends of Harford, Inc.

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