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Harford County Listening Sessions, February 28, 2018

What We Heard in Response

Mapping Support and Data ♦ Economic Development ♦  Infrastructure  ♦ Community Engagement and Volunteerism ♦ Training and Education ♦ Transportation ♦ Environment  ♦ Community  ♦ State Agencies ♦ Technical Assistance ♦ General

The comments below represent the statements or points of view of one or more individuals who participated in the Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) “A Better Maryland” Development Plan Listening Sessions. These comments do not represent any official position or policy of MDP or any other State agency, nor do they represent any official position or policy of any local jurisdiction or local planning agency.

Mapping Support and Data

The County relies heavily on Baltimore Metropolitan Council (BMC) for economic data and resources, such as the regional housing permit data. The County also uses CoStar and Fedmine as data sources to support local economic development efforts. It would be good if the State could possibly help provide comparable or supplemental data resources, possibly expanding upon existing data resources of the Departments of Commerce and Labor, Licensing & Permits

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Economic Development

The County’s economy is the most important issue that needs to be addressed by state and local officials. Without a strong economy, we cannot support all the other factors that determine a high quality of life

The County works well with the Maryland Department of Commerce, but it is more reactionary based on whether a company is looking to locate in Harford County rather than Commerce being pro-active and working with the County to retain existing employers

The County’s top priority is supporting and growing its existing business and then secondarily chasing after job prospects

The definition of what constitutes a “good” job varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction

What is considered a “good job” is perceived differently at the local level versus what some state agencies consider a “good job.”  Are retail jobs considered “good?”

The State has placed a priority on promoting high paying tech and cyber security jobs, but we have a diverse labor force, and there is a need for a wide range of skilled or semi-skilled jobs with livable wages for all County residents. For example, the homebuilding industry supplies a host of good jobs for contractors, building suppliers, etc., but these might not be perceived as high priority jobs for some State agencies

 We also can use the State’s help to attract more manufacturing and warehouse distribution job opportunities to the area

County can use help in selecting good economic indicators and then tracking them. For example, Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) and other federal government activities provide a lot of on-base jobs, but it is hard to track the off-base impacts of APG’s employment. It would be useful if we could get help tracking federal contract dollars and where these dollars are spent

Part of the County’s economic development strategy is to provide support services for the on-base activities at APG

Bel Air

The Town of Bel Air is working to attract residents to the downtown and promote business on Main Street, both of which are very important to a healthy downtown economy

Bel Air’s Main Street program is quite successful, led by Bel Air Downtown Alliance. They coordinate the Maryland State BBQ Bash every year that attracts thousands of visitors to the town

Bel Air’s streetscape project has really helped the recovery of the downtown

There needs to be more State agency flexibility when it comes to the reviewing and permitting of local development projects. It can be difficult to get the needed permits

For example, there is a need for improved State agency assistance to support downtown economic development projects, including special events. In the past the County and town have had challenges getting development projects approved, especially when it comes to Health Department reviews, which have tended to be very slow, which hurts new businesses trying to open

Aberdeen’s Stadium Town Center project (which is at the intersection of MD 22 and I-95) has had difficulty moving forward, even though this is 15 acres of prime real estate. Getting the necessary right-of-way access to meet SHA permitting appears to be holding up the project for more than two years

We need to be competitive with neighboring states and focus on revitalizing our existing communities – bring back the jobs

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Infrastructure

Schools

School class size is a real concern – 29 students to a class

They are continuing to cut positions and increase class sizes

It is important to keep kids active, which requires great schools and after-class programs

Businesses are not attracted to communities where the schools are lagging

More attention needs to be placed on our tech schools. Our county tech school is overcrowded. Not all kids have to go to college, but they need the proper training for the skilled trades

Harford seems to be ignored by the State when it comes to spending on a per pupil basis

There is a lack of consistency with school curriculum in the county. Principals get to pick the curriculum, so each school is different. Are our kids getting a good education when you have this inconsistency?

Aberdeen has a trash problem that needs to be addressed. It affects people’s perception of the community

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Community Engagement and Volunteerism

Harford County has good volunteerism and public engagement. This could be used as a best practice in the State

The City of Aberdeen has been very successful getting volunteers for its Planning Commission by challenging their members to make a difference in the plans they prepare and the developments they approve

Local government has the potential to be the most effective agent in achieving positive change, but that requires active citizen participation. It is critical to use known best practices to get citizens involved

Individual citizens need to be informed and they need to hold local government accountable by voting

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Training and Education

Local planning staff identified the need for training on ethics and how to run a public meeting as topics that would be relevant to planning commission members

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Transportation

The State’s transportation priorities are unclear from a local perspective

The new State transportation ranking and prioritization process has been difficult. Breaking projects up into smaller $5m increments can be problematic

It is also difficult to determine rural versus urban road priorities

More frequent interaction with MDOT would be beneficial to resolve these and other issues

There is a concern about how the more rural oriented counties can compete for transportation funding with the larger urban jurisdictions

Harford Transit relies heavily upon federal and state funding. They would like to see some increase in funding as the overall contributions have remained static over the past years, especially for transit

There is an increased need for good transit ridership information and other transit data to improve the effectiveness of the local transit program

Regional MARC rail is important to the people of the area. They would like to see increased weekday and weekend service, as well as expanded service to Delaware and Philadelphia. This lack of access to a regional rail and transit system has hindered the filling of over 500 vacant cyber security jobs in the immediate area

The State needs to generate broad constituent support for enhanced regional MARC/Amtrak rail service, connecting to Wilmington and Philadelphia

There is very limited rail station service in the area if you want to use the trains to go the Airport. This limits our effectiveness to strengthen our economic ties to the larger metropolitan areas

The State needs to provide funding and support for Route 40 road improvements. The County could use State assistance in preparing a US 40 Corridor Redevelopment Plan, which is recommended as one of the strategies in HarfordNext

Aberdeen continues to implement its Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Master Plan, having nearly completed the National Historic Preservation Action (NHPA) Section 106 review of the existing Aberdeen train stations and the proposed Station Square Plazas and Pedestrian Underpass improvement plans

The City of Aberdeen recently received nearly $800,000 for station area improvements

The City will continue to need county, state and federal support to ultimately upgrade the Aberdeen station to accommodate high speed rail traffic and vibrant TOD area

The County supports State efforts to designate the Edgewood Station area as a State TOD site would like to see a similarly planned TOD area for the Edgewood Station area

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Environment

The County’s Green Infrastructure Plan received a lot of community and State support

The waterfront is always a draw for people to live nearby

It is very important to our community to have open space with clean air and streams. This is what you think about when you think of Harford County. But, we are starting to lose open space in parts of southern county

Environmental protection is very important to the people of Harford County, particularly when it comes to our streams and the river

We are concerned about the impact of the Susquehanna River and the Conowingo Dam on the health of the Chesapeake Bay

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Community

The greatest strengths of Harford County are its people and the potential of the area. The area has a strong economy, but it has not fully utilized is locational advantage as much as it could

There are opportunities for growth in the towns and working more closely with the economic engine of Aberdeen Proving Ground

We came back to live here because the people are so welcoming, and it is a great place a family and retire

The Opioid Addiction Crisis is reaching all communities

The County has a difficult challenge balancing the growth goals of North County vs South County. The North County’s priorities are agriculture and rural character, while South County’s focus is on urban issues

A “Sense of Place” is diminishing in the County, which at one time helped define our neighborhoods and communities. Everything is beginning to look like everywhere else in the country

We have a lot of vacant office buildings in our community and need ideas on how to fill them or solutions to adaptively re-use the structures

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State Agencies

State inter-agency coordination is an ongoing issue that could be improved. State spending should be consistent with local plans. More agency interaction and communication with local jurisdictions would be helpful

The Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process was a bust in that the economic benefit went mainly onto APG. Another BRAC is anticipated in 3-4 years

The Class A office buildings built off APG site are largely vacant

What has happened off site at Fort Meade has not happened at APG

We need to get ready as another BRAC may be occurring in 3-4 years

SHA (and agencies) need to develop pro-business policies, such as SHA’s access process

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Technical Assistance

The Harford County Master Plan, Harford Next, has re-energized the community and created more community engagement. The Plan is structured as a strategic action plan with hundreds of proposed action items

Planning Assistance

It would be great if Planning would provide resources and technical support and perform analysis for local government that could be used in local decision making. These types of white papers can be a real aid to local government

The County does not have resources to perform certain studies, whitepapers or plans. Planning may be able to play an important role and/or resource facilitating state assistance

Planning can provide technical assistance to local jurisdictions through MML, MACo, quarterly meetings, etc. Training sessions are needed for Planning Commissioners

Planning needs to provide technical data that is consistent over time and of value to local jurisdictions

Aberdeen is updating its comprehensive plan so any assistance from Planning would be welcome. Assistance from the State helping to update the Water Resource Element is especially needed

Planning assistance for Route 40 redevelopment plan would be welcome

We need to establish a vision of our community in 10 years and not be so reactionary to every issue

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General

Having A Better Maryland focus on supporting local plans and processes is a good idea and very positive step for the State

The county and towns need to work together and not against each other. The towns, county and state policies need to be better coordinated

Assets

Harford County Library System

US 40 – Small Businesses

Aberdeen Proving Ground – Economic Engine, Largest Employer, Office Space

Ripken Stadium

Great Parks

Independence Brewing Company

Chamber of Commerce (One of the largest)

Rocks State Park

Waterfront

Susquehanna State Park

Agriculture

Challenges

Edgewood – Perception Issue

Rt 40 Corridor

Aberdeen Proving Ground – Qualitied Employees

Aberdeen – Stormwater Management

I-95 – Traffic

School Class Sizes is an issue

Walkable Communities

Rt 22 / R543 Traffic Intersection

Rt 22/ Rt 136 Congestion

Infrastructure

Aging Community

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