Harford County Executive Introduces Legislation To Curb Mega-Warehouses, Sets 250,000 Sq. Ft. Maximum


A large distribution facility on the Perryman peninsula. (Image Credit: Google/ Google Maps)

HARFORD COUNTY - On Tuesday, Harford County Executive Bob Cassilly introduced new legislation that would restrict the size of new warehouses to a maximum of 250,000 square feet.

Bill No. 23-026 would permit warehousing, distribution, and local delivery projects ranging from 150,000 to 250,000 square feet in commercial, light, and general industrial districts.

Developments would be subject to specific conditions, such as height restrictions, minimum lot requirements, impervious surface limits, and a 100-foot buffer zone if the property borders a residential or agricultural area. The legislation also insists that necessary infrastructure improvements like roadwork must be completed before construction.

The proposed legislation follows a moratorium initiated by Cassilly shortly after his inauguration. According to the county executive's office, the temporary halt on new warehouse development gave the administration time to review and possibly amend the county's existing zoning and adequate public facilities regulations, which had not accounted for the advent of modern mega-warehouses that can span more than 1 million square feet.

An analysis conducted during the moratorium found that larger warehouses have outsized safety and environmental impacts while offering limited economic advantages.

Extensive distribution facilities introduce a high volume of interstate trucks onto local roads and turn undeveloped land into impervious surfaces, impacting local water resources. The study also found that these facilities create jobs that are typically low-skill and low-wage. The vast size of these facilities competes with other, potentially more beneficial, commercial uses for limited available property.

"Our citizens have made it clear that they do not want unrestrained growth," Cassilly said. "This update to our development regulations clarifies ambiguous language in existing law and adds conditions for responsible development. It is, frankly, long overdue."

According to the administration, smaller warehouses have proven to be more community-friendly, attracting diverse industries and creating jobs for skilled labor while being easier to redevelop or repurpose as needed.

Bill No. 23-026 is scheduled for a public hearing on October 2, 2023.

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