Debate Continues Over Proposed Warehouses In Perryman, Abingdon


Credit: Harford County Department of Planning and Zoning

HAVRE DE GRACE - Harford County is currently at the center of a heated debate over two proposed warehouse developments that are causing concerns about the impact of such projects on the environment and local economies.

County Executive Bob Cassilly responded to community concerns by issuing a moratorium on new warehouses in the county on February 14. He asked the council to support a six-month halt on new warehouse construction to allow sufficient time to introduce, consider, and approve new legislation that would define and regulate mega-warehouse distribution centers.

Chesapeake Real Estate Group's (CREG) 5.2 million-square-foot Mitchell property warehouse development in Perryman has faced public opposition for over a year. On March 23, a Harford County Circuit Court judge denied a request for a temporary restraining order from CREG. The developer had filed the lawsuit in an attempt to force Harford County to respond to their requests regarding the development.

Meanwhile, the proposed two million-square-foot Abingdon Business Park is also generating controversy, with many community and environmental groups expressing their fears that the unmitigated expansion of this industry will turn Harford County into "Warehouse County."

Harford County is already home to many warehouses along the I-95 corridor. According to the County Executive's Office, more than 2.8 million square feet of existing warehouse space is unused and leasable.

Abingdon Residents such as MaryLee Stritch say new warehouses will decrease property values.

"None of the prospective homeowners in these developments were notified that their homes would be adjacent to or within a half-mile radius of a commercial/industrial property. There is no doubt that the property values of homes in these developments will plummet," Abingdon resident Stritch wrote in a reader commentary featured in The Aegis.

Other groups, such as The Gunpowder Riverkeeper and 3P Protect Perryman Peninsula, have expressed concerns over dwindling greenspace and environmental impacts.

A moratorium on warehouse development is essential to allow time for lawmakers and citizens to understand the consequences of further industrial expansion. Harford County must break the pattern of neglecting recommendations from legislative, scientific, and community groups," 3P Protect Perryman Peninsula wrote in a statement.

"This project has been challenged by a coalition of community and environmental groups and is emblematic of the negative impacts of these types of projects that the County Executive wants to evaluate. This project removes greenspace and increases air and water pollution to the adjacent communities and Title I schools. The community has already documented significant water pollution impacts caused by the clearing associated with this project," the Gunpowder Riverkeeper wrote.

Abingdon Woods feeds into Otter Point Creek and the tidal Bush River and stands as the last significant, intact stretch of forest buffer in the Bush River watershed. In 2013, MDE conducted a study of water quality in the Bush River. The study found that its health, based on the richness of species and biodiversity, was poor and that the watershed was impacted by "urban stream syndrome," where high percentages of impervious surfaces lead to polluted stormwater runoff, negatively impacting water quality.

On the other side of the debate, developers have argued that the moratorium will dissuade businesses from bringing jobs to Harford County.

Despite their negative reputation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says warehouses and distribution centers have a broadly positive impact on local economies.

According to the chamber, on average, a new distribution center (D.C.) employing 3,000 workers resulted in 5,111 total new jobs in a metropolitan service area (MSA), including those 3,000 at the new D.C., and sustained those new jobs over a 20-year period. In other words, for every job created directly by a new D.C., an additional 0.7 jobs are created in the MSA.

In an interview with the Maryland Daily Record, Matt Laraway, a partner with Chesapeake Real Estate Group, said that the moratorium "will definitely impact people's company's desire to want to be in Harford County and people's desire to invest in Harford County."

As the county continues to weigh the benefits and downsides of new warehouses, a date for the council to vote on the moratorium bill has yet to be set.

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The Perryman warehouse project was approved over 25 years ago.  People that moved in the area should have know what was coming.  They have to drive by several of the already completed projects just to get back in there.  They should sue their realtor for failing to disclose the project.

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