A newly formed Friends of Harford began its push for smarter growth and managed development in 1997 prior to the last Comprehensive Rezoning. We lobbied from every corner of the county for limited upzonings, but were not at all satisfied that we had been heard. Unhappy with the result, Friends of Harford supported and aided taking the entire Comprehensive Rezoning Bill to referendum. This effort gathered over 9,000 signatures from equally unhappy citizens who saw Harford County’s rural legacy being eaten up by mushrooming residential subdivisions and misplaced convenience stores with mega gas pumps.
The development industry poured money into getting the votes to pass the Comprehensive Rezoning bill, with a campaign designed to persuade people that the bill would actually save farmland. While Friends of Harford had the determination and the will to fight back, our young organization lacked the sophistication, the manpower and the money to carry the issue successfully through the election.
We are working to make sure that the voices of people who live in Harford County are heard throughout land use decisions and the Comprehensive Zoning Review process. We send notifications of County meetings, zoning changes, and new legislation to help reach the people who these changes will impact. We also review each change of zoning in the Comprehensive Zoning Review process and evaluate it based upon its conformity with the Master Land Use Plan, its compatibility with the neighborhood, and its effect on public facilities and services. We then compile these analyses in a report with recommendations to the County Council.
You may ask why this is necessary when there is a public process already in place. Both the Department of Planning and Zoning and the Planning Advisory Board will make similar recommendations to the Council after a series of public hearings are held to solicit input from citizens and interested parties around the county.
Friends of Harford has learned from the Master Plan process that, in these two venues, the voice of an individual citizen is not necessarily heard up the line. The din from big money and old promises is loud in the centers of government. We do, however, know that our County Council takes its charge seriously. Friends of Harford is here to provide the Council with an additional source of information and educated advice on which to base their final decisions.