Cook Volkswagen seeks approval for expanded lot

Services and ShoppingScience

The operators of Cook Volkswagen in Fallston are looking to expand the vehicle storage lot for their Route 1 (Belair Road) dealership, but the property developer must resolve outstanding issues with state and federal agencies and work out an agreement with neighboring homeowners before they can proceed.

Members of Harford County's Development Advisory Committee – which reviews developers' site plans and provides recommendations to the Department of Planning and Zoning – recommended during their Wednesday meeting that the owner and developer of the property, listed as 2110 Bel Air Road LLC of Aberdeen, come to a resolution with the county, the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Army Corps of Engineers before the site plan could be approved.

"We will not approve this plan until those issues have been resolved," DAC member Shane Grimm, chief of the Board of Appeals and site plan review for the Department of Planning and Zoning, said.

Property owners plan to pave an undeveloped north-facing parcel adjacent to the dealership and create 71 spaces for vehicle storage. The lot would be at the corner of Milton Avenue and Belair Road.

That parcel was less of an issue during the DAC meeting, as opposed to a parcel behind the dealership which includes a forested buffer between the business and the neighboring Fallston Crossing subdivision.

The removal of trees from the buffer in an effort to clean up damage from a tornado that struck the area in 2011 attracted the attention of state and federal officials recently.

Jay Apperson, a spokesman for the MDE, said Thursday an inspector from the MDE's Water Management Administration and an inspector from the Corps visited the site earlier this month "in regards to an issue involving trees being cleared in the area."

"We have not issued any violations at this time," Apperson continued. "It is an active investigation and we expect that the Army Corps [of Engineers] will take the lead on it."

Apperson declined to provide further details, since the investigation is ongoing.

Dudley Campbell, principal of Bay State Land Services Inc., a Forest Hill engineering firm, represented the applicant during Wednesday's DAC meeting.

He noted the parcel where the tree buffer is, is not contiguous to the parcel where the storage lot would be.

"I take exception that another parcel – which does not even have access to it – is held hostage," Campbell said.

He said Cook owners are willing to work with regulators on resolving the buffer issue.

"Certainly Cook Volkswagen wants to be a good neighbor," he said.

Several residents of Fallston Crossing expressed their concerns with the project Wednesday.

The proposed site plan calls for providing vehicle access to the storage lot from Milton Avenue. Elyse Levy is concerned about traffic safety, since Milton Avenue also serves as an access road to Fallston Crossing.

"I disagree with that," she said. "They can put it on Belair Road; it's going to cause too much traffic [on Milton Avenue]."

Jason Belbot said children can be seen playing along the subdivision streets, and he watches for them while driving through the area.

"You'll see basketballs coming out from time to time," he said.

Rich Zeller, DAC member and regional engineer for the State Highway Administration's Access Management Division, said highway officials often recommend providing commercial access from roads with lower levels of traffic.

"It's more of a safety issue to put in on Belair Road than it is to put it on Milton Avenue," Zeller explained.

Brian Schorr, a member of Fallston Crossing's Homeowners' Association, is concerned about the increased impervious surface from the lot and the impact on the subdivision's stormwater management ponds.

The residential and commercial lots at Belair and Milton – formerly the site of Fallston General Hospital – were developed together, and the stormwater pond serves both areas.

Moe Davenport, DAC chairman, said all parties must determine who will be responsible for stormwater impacts – including the residents, Fallston Crossing developer and the business owners – before the site plan is approved.

"As long as we're at the table, and they include us in the conversation, I have no problem with that," Schorr said of the residents.

Davenport said if the applicant can "get an approved restoration plan and some financial sureties in place we can probably move forward."

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