Sunday, December 31, 2006

Harford County plans a zoning code revision

So it looks like Harford County officials have decided to dust of the county's zoning code, last updated in 1982, according to a story in today's Baltimore Sun. Rather than a comprehensive rezoning (which County Executive David R. Craig vetoed last spring, citing concerns it allowed too much development outside of Bel Air and Route 40) they're planning a revision that could take up to two years, saying the expansion of Aberdeen Proving Ground makes the revision particularly important.

"With Harford expected to swell by as many as 60,000 residents over the next decade as a result of expansion at Aberdeen Proving Ground, officials say the planning process is as important as ever."
However, the bulk of those moving to APG from Fort Monmouth, N.J. as a result of BRAC are expected to start arriving in a year -- well before the county will have finished deciding such things as the transfer of development rights on agriculturally zoned land and changes in design standards. And a recent survey revealed that the majority of those moving here from New Jersey are likely to be young families with children looking to live in Harford County in single-family homes. If builders can build faster than code writers can write, I hope those zoning officials have enough of a head start.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

So how will we stuff those BRAC kids into our schools?

It's a good thing that it looks like a lot of these new Harford County residents coming as a result of BRAC will be children. According to a recent story in the Baltimore Sun, we're going to be squeezing into our schools. (Smaller people fit better in tighter spaces). Reporter Justin Fenton's Dec. 10 story states that Harford County officials were able to snag only a mere fraction of the state school construction funding they had an eye on to help with school overcrowding. (A condition expected to worsen exponentially when the BRACers really start to arrive in about 2008).

Read the story here.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Examiner ran a story about the BRAC survey today

The Examiner newspaper ran a story today on that BRAC survey unveiled at a Cecil County Chamber of Commerce luncheon last week. It restates the idea that the folks who will be moving here will be younger and have children. Those older Fort Monmouth military base workers are more likely to retire and stay in New Jersey. That means however many new workers we get in Maryland, the majority of them will likely be bringing kids along. Officials keep complaining that we don't any hard numbers on who will be coming and that makes it difficult to plan. So, it's looking like we may be faced with a rather sudden influx of more kids than we know what do to with. Most of the transferees are expected to arrive in 2008, giving us not much time to prepare. And the new Bel Air elementary school announced last week isn't even taking into account these BRAC kids. Perhaps we'll end up with actual trailer parks next to our schools.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

How many BRACers are coming and where will they live? Study gives a bit of a glimpse

The Cecil Whig newspaper reported Friday that 2,800 people (53 percent of the total) working at the Fort Monmouth, N.J. military installation were surveyed about their plans to move to Maryland as a result of the military's Base Realignment and Closure Plan.
The findings indicated that most of those who responded to the survey planned to look for single family homes in Harford County. They also indicated that the families might be bringing more children than planners initially expected.
According to Cecil County Economic Development Director Vernon Thompson, who presented the study findings to a Chamber of Commerce lunch at the Northeast River Yacht Club Thursday:

“One thing the survey reveals is that those coming will be younger and have more children than we first expected,” Thompson said.
The BRAC plan is expected to relocate about 6,000 jobs to Aberdeen Proving Ground, starting in 2008 and ending in 2011. Harford County is bracing for an influx of thousands for those jobs and the many others that will support them. Schools are mulling how to accomodate the sudden growth with many schools already over capacity. Developers are asking cities in Harford and Cecil Counties to annex land so they can build more housing for the expected influx. Neighbors opposed to the developments are getting organized in places like Aberdeen and Pacas Meadows near Bel Air.
According to the study, 20 percent of those surveyed say they plan to live in Harford County. Five percent are looking to move to Cecil County, 11 percent plan to move to Delaware and 9 percent plan to move to Pennsylvania. The majority are looking for single-family homes and they're willing to commute anywhere from 10 minutes to one hour to get to work in Aberdeen. Forty-percent of the spouses of those who will work at APG will be looking for jobs in industries like health care and education.
According to Cecil County Economic Development Director Vernon Thompson, planners want to make Route 40 the place for international companies that are expected to come here as a result of the realingment.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Voters defeat Aberdeen annexation

In what might be a sign that making room for BRACers might not always make Harford County residents happy, voters in Aberdeen yesterday defeated an annexation that would have brought more housing to the area. According to the unofficial vote published in Wednesday's Baltimore Sun, the plan was defeated by a 1,340-745 vote among city residents and a 19-18 vote among residents in the annexation parcel. Developers of The Wetlands project wanted the City of Aberdeen to annex more than 500 acres where the developers wanted to build upscale housing for more than 1,000 homes including townhouses, garage villas, condominums and houses at an average sales price of $350,000. The Sun story reported that a $20,000 impact fee would be assessed on each home to help offset the infrastructure costs of roads, schools and water services. The federal government's Base Realignment and Closure plan is expected to add approximately 8,200 jobs to Aberdeen Proving Ground and additional thousands throughout the area. The City Council unanimously approved the annexation in June despite the objections of hundreds of residents who attended meetings on the matter. Residents then forced a referendum on the issue with a 2,500-signature petition. Although they defeated the annexation plan, the developer has already submitted a revamped plan to annex 28 acres in the Locksley Manor community, according to a story in the Baltimore Examiner. That annexation plan is expected to come before the city council sometime between January and March, the story said. The growing pains are unlikely to go away any time soon.

Big vote to watch in Aberdeen

Aberdeen voters go to the polls Dec. 5 to decide whether to allow the city to annex 523 acres to make room for a development of more than 1,000 homes that is expected to house some of the the thousands expected to come to Maryland by 2011 due to the military's Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) plan. The plan has been highly controversial with supporters and opponents both putting their views on the Internet with rather sophisticated websites. For: www.aberdeenannexation.com; Against: www.saynoannex.com. Since residents forced this referendum with a 2,500 signature petition after the City Council approved the developers' plan by a 5-0 vote this past June, the issue has created a lot of heat. It was the subject of a Baltimore Sun story Monday. The story indicates that no matter how the vote shakes out, the issue is unlikely to die since the developer of the Wetlands project has already submitted a revamped plan. An organizer of the opposition group is quoted in the Sun story as saying:

"It's not just this one annexation," said Bobbie Randles, an organizer of the group. "[The base realignment] seems to be giving developers some leverage over government to push through their agendas. We're concerned we could get into a bad situation."

The tug of war up there by Aberdeen Proving Ground, where about 8,200 new jobs are scheduled to come, will be interesting to watch.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Harford County gets $1.7 million fed grant to help figure out where to put the BRACers

A story in today's Aegis newspaper says the Harford County Office of Economic Development received a $1.7 million grant Thursday to help figure out just how many BRACers are coming and where they will likely live. The grant is the second this year from the Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment. The county earlier received $300,000. The story said the study would be regional and would also look at Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Cecil County.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

BRAC deadline

So when are the BRACers arriving? According to the US Army's Civilian Personnel website: "BRAC must be completed by September 15, 2011. The Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management (ACSIM) is the Army’s lead organization for the BRAC process. The Office of the Assistant G-1 for Civilian Personnel provides support, policy, and guidance for all human resource issues related to BRAC."

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Welcome to the Harford BRAC blog

I'm a Bel Air resident, freelance journalist and blogger (publisher of Bel Air News & Views). I decided to start this Harford BRAC blog for those who live in Harford County now and those we're expecting thanks to the military's Base Realignment and Closure plan. Harford County is expecting some 30,000 new jobs to come to this area as a result of the military's plan to streamline its operations and redirect some 8,200 military jobs to Aberdeen Proving Ground.
While BRAC's impact will be felt in many areas of the state, here in Harford County we're in for a lot of changes that are likely to come in a short amount of time. BRAC will bring more jobs, more traffic, more school congestion and more development. I thought I'd start this blog as a kind of clearing house for BRAC information. I'm completely unaffiliated with the military. I'm a stay-at-home mom of two kids doing this blogging while going about our life in Bel Air. But I am concerned about how BRAC will impact Harford County and I thought my position here as a Bel Air resident provided me a good vantage point to start chronicling the coming changes. I'm already concerned about what this influx of new families will mean for our schools. My son is already attending the third grade in one of five trailer classrooms at his elementary school -- built just nine years ago. I'm going to search for BRAC-related news daily and post items of interest here. I'll keep a running list of useful BRAC-related links. I'm hoping that this blog will serve as a resource for those folks who will be moving to the area as a result of the realingment as well as discussion point for those who already live here. I hope that readers will use this space to share their thoughts, ask for information and vent their frustrations (politely). Please let me know if there is anything that should be added to this site. It's a work-in-progress. And please feel free to contribute. Thanks for reading.