White Papers



A Master Plan For The Next Generation


  1. General Comments


  1. If a generation is defined as the average length of time between the birth of parents and the birth of their children, i.e. approximately 25 years, due to Maryland State law requirements, HarfordNEXT cannot be a master plan for the next generation.  The Comprehensive Plan law is governed by Title 3 of the Land Use Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland.  Section 3-303 requires Harford County to review and implement the Comprehensive Plan at least once every ten years.  Accordingly, the time horizons of the Plan should be revised to ten years.


  1. Leaving aside the statutory mandate of updating the Master Plan every 10 years, if this is truly a Plan to serve the citizens of Harford County for a generation, the Plan does not go far enough.  GHC supports the concept of a study area in the MD 543/MD 136 corridors.  GHC supports the three minor additions to the Development Envelope included in HarfordNEXT.  However, the plan for development is basically what was conceived 39 years ago.  The 1977 Development Envelope has not been significantly expanded since its inception.  This plan should redefine the Study Area as the area of expansion of the Development Envelope.


  1. The “draft” of HarfordNEXT was released in early 2016.  The County asked for comments regarding the “draft”.  Notwithstanding many suggestions to improve the “draft”, no material changes were made to the document.  Any material changes to the Master Plan will need to be made by the Harford County Council.


  1. Overall, the Plan is so broad, and so lacking in specificity and priorities, it will be challenging to use the Plan to implement clear policy and achieve its goals.  To illustrate this point (specifically related to transportation but illustrative of much of the Plan’s extremely broad goals), is a passage from Page 95 of the Plan.  It states:  “Goal MC 1.4:  Commit to investing in our future by completing 33% of our short-term priority projects and 10% of our long-term priority projects over the next 15 years”.  This statement suggests that 67% of short term projects and 90% of long-term priority projects will not get done. The number of studies, evaluations, educational initiatives, future plans, investigations, and future programs referenced in the Plan are far beyond the realistic ability of the County to implement even with a 10 or 15 year time horizon.  The recommendations should be based on realistic priorities which can be implemented over the next 10 years.


  1. The Plan should clearly identify and focus on the “opportunity hubs” of Harford County and ensure policies are in place for these opportunities to thrive.  The “hubs” are the three municipalities of Bel Air, Aberdeen and Havre de Grace, Harford Community College, the University Center, the Mitchell Property in Perryman, “Downtown” Edgewood, and the Rural Villages.


  1. While the municipalities have their own planning responsibilities, Harford County needs to better engage and partner with them and fully recognize that municipal residents are County residents too. Planning efforts and goals should be more collaborative and aligned.


  1. Water And Sewer Comments


  1. Significant water and wastewater capital expenditures intended to accommodate growth have been made by Harford County Government, including the following:
  2. Abingdon Road Water Plant Expansion
  3. Bynum Run Interceptor Parallel
  4. Bush Creek Pumping Station Expansion.

If the development envelope is not significantly increased, connection fee revenue will not be sufficient to defray the debt. Infill growth has historically been overestimated by Harford County Planning and Harford County Water and Sewer.

  1. To fully support education in Harford County, water and sewer should be extended to Harford Community College and surrounding commercial and residential areas.  Without access to public water and sewer, Harford Community College is restricted from growing educational and training programs that are critical to the future of the County.  Harford Community College is limited to what it can draw from its wells.   Harford Community College has a limit on the amount of wastewater which can be treated by its systems.  The limits will hinder expansion of workforce development programs and the creation of new ones needed for the skilled workforce of the future.  Harford Community College is a critical concern of the business community.  The Greater Harford Committee strongly supports the inclusion of Harford Community College in the “Development Envelope”.


  1. The Fallston Sewer Service Area needs to be evaluated.  This service area has evolved as a car dealership hub and an evaluation of capacity for other uses is in order.
  2. The current well and septic regulations are antiquated and are a deterrent to growth and prosperity.  Community water and sewer facilities should be evaluated to replace existing septic systems, allow for higher density village development, attract development that might otherwise go into the rural countryside, and improve the environment.
  3. The Plan should clarify the status of Winters Run as a Water Source Protection District.  The importance of protecting this watershed as the source of much of Bel Air’s water is of prime importance and, while identified in the Plan, should be made a top priority.


  1. Development Envelope/Growth Comments


  1. Stoney Forest as a growth area instead of a study area should be included in

the Plan.


  1. Roads and highways such as Interstate 95 should be incorporated into

growth corridors instead of being used as growth boundaries.


  1. The four decade old inverted T growth area has restricted economic development and accompanying public facilities (water, sewer, and roads) to an ultimately inefficient model:


  1. Daisy-chained water transmission facilities instead of looped/reinforced.


  1. Inefficient, costly, and technologically out of step onsite wastewater treatment and disposal systems outside of the growth area.


  1. Deficient road networks connecting growth centers with Interstate 95 such as Maryland Route 152, Route 543, Route 22 and Route 155.


  1. The Plan states that the County population and growth is estimated to be 0.6% annually.  The Plan gives no basis for this projection.  The Plan should include the data to support this conclusion.


  1. The Priority Funding Area should correlate to the land use plan.  Plan for growth first so it can become a PFA.


  1. The Plan should delineate the schedule/game plan for the “Study Area” of the Route 543/136 corridor.


  1. The Plan should propose changes to the Rural Villages to account for growth.   The creation of a new village at the intersection of Route 543 and Route 136 should be included in the Plan.


  1. Population to household projections (20,000 housing units over the next 25 years = 800/year) significantly exceed the current market (705 for 2015 in a “rebound year”).  The Plan should include incentive strategies to stimulate the market.


  1. The Plan has  an inconsistency in the Job Growth estimates.   53% of a current workforce of 26,050 equals 66,800 jobs in the County versus 104,670 listed.  Regardless, if job projections are to increase by over 60,000 new jobs and the population is projected to increase by only 41,000, then the Plan does  re-assign workers who commute outside the County to inside the County.


  1. The Plan describes the US Route 40 Corridor as providing “unlimited opportunities” for redevelopment and the CSSC is described as providing the incentives.  The redevelopment of Route 40 in the past 10 years does not bode well for the next 15 years.  If the past is prologue, Route 40 will look the same in 2030.


  1. The Community Planning Areas (“CPA’s”) speak only to infill and redevelopment.  No new growth planned.  The Plan’s Priority Preservation Area being expanded by over 50% is at odds with the infill/redevelopment of the CPA’s.


  1. Below are the specific areas that the GHC requests that the County Council include in the Plan:


  1. The 700 acre Mitchell property in Perryman, prioritizing road access from Route 40 to serve the property.


  1. The redevelopment of “Old Edgewood” from Hanson Road to the APG Gate and Train Station


  1. Stoney Forest should be a growth area instead of a study area.


  1. Harford Community College should be put in the Development Envelope.  It is an existing high density use and the West Campus cannot be designated a Priority Funding Area without being in the Development Envelope.  The Plan recognizes the importance of HCC in many ways but falls short of truly supporting the institution and its future.


  1. “Old Edgewood” or “Downtown Edgewood” along 755 from Hanson Road to the APG Gate is a challenged area and needs focus and attention.  It is referenced in the Plan but lacks specificity or priority.  Bold ideas have been floated to redevelop this area but are absent from the Plan.


  1. The Rural Villages need to be evaluated far beyond the architectural and aesthetic elements referenced in the Plan.


  1. Economics/Housing Comments



  1. The “Consolidated Plan (FY 2013-2017)”regarding affordable housing is referenced.  This document should be part of the Plan and available for review.


  1. The 2014 inventory of residential units available should be part of the Plan and available for review.


  1. The importance of the agricultural economy is overstated.  Under Economic Vitality, the market value of agriculture was $46 million in 2012. $46,000.00 divided by an average housing price of $280,000 equates to only 164 houses.  New housing at 800 homes per year equals $224 million dollars – almost 5 times the agricultural market.   Agriculture is clearly overshadowed by housing and many other markets.


  1. Under Economic Base, the government workforce is listed as being 23,698.  APG alone employs this many people.  Harford County Government and Harford County Public Schools employ a total of __________.  [need to verify these numbers]


  1. Under Economic Opportunities, the Plan states that our “success depends upon job creation”. Other than this broad goal, there is no plan for promoting job creation.


  1. A community services study is being recommended for non-agricultural uses on Ag land.  The Plan needs to specify the details.


  1. Environment Preservation Comments


  1. Environmental Stewardship should not prevent future growth.  The “Green Infrastructure Plan” is a nebulous concept.  More detail is required to evaluate this plan.


  1. The Plan should explain how “Certified Local Government” will “aid in our preservation efforts.”


  1. The Plan should require the County to track the gas tax payments made in the County and the investments made in the County highway infrastructure.


  1. The Water Resources Element Plan recognizes agriculture as the greatest contributor to nutrient pollution but makes references to developed land overtaking agriculture as the top polluter.  Yet BT systems are being installed for all new houses.  There is very little chance that 2500 septic systems will be built over the next ten years.  This portion of the Plan is self-serving agricultural hypocrisy.


  1. There is no need for a County run native plant nursery.


  1. Transportation Comments


  1. Route 152 north of 1-95 has both Urban Arterial and Rural Arterial designations yet it is primarily outside the Development Envelope.


  1. Route 543 between US Route 1 and I-95 is listed as a Minor Urban Arterial yet almost 50% of its frontage is outside the development envelopment/urban areas.


  1. Should Route 22 be listed as being as a principle “Rural Arterial between Churchville and Aberdeen”?


  1. Improvements and widening Route 22 from Bel Air to APG are essential and should be strongly prioritized in the Plan.


  1. Gaining direct access from Route 40 to the Mitchell property in Perryman should be a priority of the Plan.  This concept has been planned for many years and has been in and out of the capital budget.  The Mitchell property has  700 acres of land that is adjacent to APG, properly zoned, immediate access to utilities, which can be developed with minimal environmental impact.  It  is “Smart Growth” at its best.  The development of the Mitchell property must be made a priority of the Plan.  The Route 715 connection is vital and must be supported by APG officials.


  1. Improved and expanded MARC and bus service in the County should  be a priority of the Plan.


  1. Substantially improved and expanded bus service for Harford County should be a priority of the Plan.


  1. Fully integrated improvements to Route 22, Route 152, Route 24, Route 924, Route 40, and Route 7 should be extremely high priorities of the Plan.  The County should engage SHA in the Plan.