Legal And Environmental Concerns Persist Over Proposed 5.2 Million Square-Foot Perryman Warehouse
HAVRE DE GRACE - Over 100 residents, local officials, and community representatives gathered at an emergency town hall on Wednesday evening to discuss the proposed development of a massive freight terminal on 711 acres of Mitchell Farm in Perryman.
Hosted by the grassroots organization 3P Protect Perryman Peninsula, the event sought to address an array of community concerns and provide an update on the efforts to halt proposed development.
"We are in the 4% percentile nationally of overburdened communities," said 3P Protect Perryman Peninsula member Leigh Maddox. "30% of Harford County's water comes from the well fields that are underneath this project."
The proposed development plan for Mitchell Farm includes constructing five 65-foot tall freight distribution buildings totaling 5.2 million square feet. This would necessitate the construction of an additional around 5 million square feet of roadway and parking. The plan also calls for 1,414 tractor-trailer spots, 2,542 car parking spaces, and 2,000 square feet of retail and service areas.
3P and other community groups have raised significant concerns about the project's environmental impact and effects on local traffic. According to the organization, existing industrial developments on the Perryman Peninsula are already causing adverse effects on the Bush River and surrounding ecosystems, including smaller watersheds, habitats, and wildlife.
The group notes that another warehouse would overburden the area's sparse infrastructure and emergency services. The Perryman Peninsula is currently only accessible via a single residential road - the only access point for over 400 homes.
"93% of the people in Perryman feel unsafe on Old Post Road, which is already clogged by Amazon CNS trucks," Maddox said.
The emergency town hall was convened due to growing concerns that the antiquated zoning code could be used to approve the development, which has been stalled since County Executive Bob Cassilly instituted a Warehouse moratorium in February.
Cassilly, along with County Council President Pat Vincenti and Council Member Jacob Bennett, attended the town hall, providing updates on efforts to stop the project.
Councilman Bennett outlined how his staff had researched modern definitions and intensity-of-use metrics that could be incorporated into the zoning code.
The Cassilly administration has also developed draft legislation to modernize the zoning code. However, the council did not introduce this legislation before its summer recess.
Despite the updates from local officials, 3P is concerned that the county will choose the developers over constituents.
A lawsuit against Harford County by the developer further complicates the issue. On February 28, 2023, Chesapeake Real Estate Group (CREG) filed a motion for a temporary restraining order against Harford County.
The company accused the county of deliberately delaying the construction of its Mitchell Property mega-warehouse development, demanding immediate approval of its Series 3 Final Development Plans.
In response, Harford County claims that CREG has intentionally omitted details about the project's expanding scope and argues that the existing limited infrastructure puts local residents and businesses at risk of "substantial and irreparable injury."
In March 2023, a Harford County Circuit Court temporarily denied CREG's motion, withholding its decision on whether to grant a preliminary injunction until the outcome of the Warehouse Moratorium bill is determined.
Maddox is concerned that the looming lawsuit will impact the county executive's willingness to fight the development.
"My personal opinion is that he's more afraid of the industrial development community suing him than he is about protecting his own constituents," Maddox said.
According to 3P, the County Executive has presented plans to the organization and the County Council that would allow the development while providing some form of traffic relief.
3P vehemently opposed these plans, arguing they are not permissible under the current zoning code. The organization has insisted that any agreement reached should not grant the developer legal vesting rights.
With the warehouse moratorium set to expire in October, 3P is exploring other ways to stop the development. The organization is considering additional legal avenues, including a HUD lawsuit and an environmental justice complaint.
3P has also started a fundraising campaign to purchase the property. According to Maddox, around 20% of the $50 million has already been pledged.
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