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.