Letter-Writing Campaign to Save Abingdon Woods

Please help us to achieve three goals:

1) to get the owner and developers of the planned “I-95 Logistics Center”, otherwise known as “Abingdon Business Park,” to cooperate in investigating selling Abingdon Woods for preservation,

2) to get Harford County Councilmen and County Executive Barry Glassman to commit to not forcing sale of land homeowners and homeowners associations don’t want to sell so that the developer can do “needed” road expansions mandated for this development plan and

3) to get Governor Hogan to step in at this time when forests must be preserved in order to slow climate change…

GOAL NUMBER 1

Here are the names and address of the owner and developers at the head of a letter sent to them by Harford County Climate Action. Please feel free to use this letter as a sample for your own letter:

Tom Huber
Harford Investors, LLP
P.O. Box 8691 Baltimore, MD 21240

Tom Huber
Heffner & Weber 856 Elkridge Landing Road Linthicum Heights, MD 21090

James Lighthizer and J Erin Gruver
Chesapeake Real Estate Group-Westport I, LLC
1343 Ashton Road, Suite B, Hanover, MD 21076

September 26, 2020

Re:  I-95 Logistics Center/Abingdon Business Park

Mr. Huber, Mr. Lighthizer, and Mr. J Erin Gruver,

Some residents who live by Abingdon Woods have lived in this location long before the 1980s when the property was purchased by Mr. Huber.  Other entire neighborhoods were approved and built after the property was rezoned “light commercial/industrial.”  Many of these later residents were explicitly told by their realtors that the woods was “preserved”. 

Both older and newer neighbors are united in their opposition to the construction of the I-95 Logistics Center/Abingdon Business Park, as are many other community groups like ours.  The Harford County executive and county council largely support you in your plan.  As Americans, I hope it bothers you that they are not representing the will of the vast majority of voters who live in Abingdon. 

Our attachment to this land is deep.  Development here will break our hearts.  It will be very hard to witness the destruction of a forest this size.  And it is not in the best interests of your children and our children to continue to destroy forests when climate disruption is supercharging fires out west, causing flooding in coastal areas, and creating droughts, tornadoes and hurricanes throughout the U.S. 

If you agree, as a group, to give the state of Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources permission to assess the value of this property, then DNR can determine how much money it would be willing to pay for its preservation.  We have already confirmed that funds can also be appropriated from the federal and county government, as well as private donations.  You could reject the offer if it is insufficient.  But why not at least allow us to make an offer and explore the possibility of preserving this forest?

We have heard that Mr. Huber is contractually bound to the development plan.  However, if all parties agree to give permission for a DNR assessment, it could be done.  There would be no cost to you.  All we need is your signature on the attached form, which is being sent to each of you individually.

Thank-you for considering this request.

Tracey Waite
President, Harford County Climate Action
(443) 243-3363

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GOAL NUMBER 2

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman
220 S Main St Ste 3, Bel Air, MD 21014 
countyexecutive@harfordcountymd.gov

Harford County Council President Patrick Vincenti
212 S Bond Street
Bel Air, MD 21014
pvincenti@harfordcountycouncil.com

Dear County Executive Barry Glassman (or Harford County Council President Vincenti)

 I am writing to ask for your help to preserve the 326- acre Abingdon Woods.   According to the 2013 Harford County Land Preservation, Parks and Recreation Plan the county has not yet reached the stated goal of 30 acres of local open space for every 1,000 residents.   By 2025, the county will need 959.2 additional acres to maintain even the current (inadequate) citizen to green space ratio.

            Abingdon Woods is bordered by residential areas, two elementary schools, and two houses of worship.  In addition to increased water and air pollution, the project will subject school children and residents to 24 hours a day of toxic diesel pollution, traffic, noise and light pollution.   With at least 18 vacant warehouses and the soon to be empty JC Penny’s complex all within ten miles of this forest, this project is against every moral and ethical standard for land use, public health, and the environment.  

            This is the largest remaining unprotected forest in the Bush River Watershed.  Open Space funding and other monies are likely available to purchase this forest.   

I’m asking you to take two steps to support preserving this property.  First of all, the developer needs to purchase several properties in order to do road expansion along Abingdon Road.  We know that one homeowner’s association has already been approached to sell two properties.  They have decided not to sell.  We would like your commitment to not forcing sale through eminent domain or “condemnation.”

Secondly, you can encourage the developer and owner of Abingdon Woods to investigate the option of selling the property for preservation.  

Please consider sharing the blessings of open space and clean air enjoyed in the northern part of the county with those living in the development envelope.  

 Thank you,

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………

GOAL NUMBER 3:

Sample Letter Number 1

Governor Larry Hogan
100 State Circle
Annapolis, MD 21401

Dear Governor Hogan,

      Over the last six years, your administration has committed nearly $6 billion to wide-ranging Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts, resulting in measurable improvements to the bay’s health.   Despite your commendable efforts, according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, “Increasing development paired with lax forest protections are wiping out thousands of acres of forests, and with them, one of our most successful resources in the fight to improve the water quality of our rivers, streams, and Chesapeake Bay.”  Data from the Chesapeake Bay Program indicates that, “The Bay watershed now loses forestland at the rate of 100 acres each day. Forests are crucial to maintaining the water quality of the Bay and its tributaries. They also safeguard wildlife habitat, add to local economies, protect public health, provide recreation opportunities, and enhance the quality of life for the watershed’s residents.”

      This information indicates that we can’t just buy our way to Saving the Bay.  We must actually implement the smart growth policies that Maryland has advocated for many years.  We must utilize existing infrastructure and encourage the redevelopment of abandon properties made up of impervious surface area rather then continuing to deforest the watershed.  The mission of the Maryland Department of the Environment is “To protect and restore the environment for the health and well-being of all Marylanders”.   

MDE’s own policy states that it is important to consider water quality when renewing/developing environmentalpermits and conducting land use planning.  MDE has now listed the Bush River as an “impaired water body” under the Clean Water Act.  In the Bush, underwater grasses declined from 141 acres in 2002 to just 48 acres in 2012.  The River is impaired for PCB’s, phosphorous, chloride, and sulfates.  MDE determined that most of the pollution is caused by habitat alteration and lack of riparian buffer.

      I am writing to ask your help to preserve the 330 acre Abingdon Forest and non-tidal wetlands.  This forest, in the Bush River Watershed of Harford County, is at the end of the Susquehanna River at the headwaters of the Bay.  The forest is surrounded by residential neighborhoods and borders two elementary schools and a church.  A developer plans to clear cut the forest and build warehouses.  There are at least 18 vacant warehouses and a soon to be empty JC Penny’s complex all within ten miles of this forest.   In addition to increasing water and air pollution, the project will subject children at the schools and in the neighbor hoods to 24 hour a day diesel fumes, traffic and noise. 

      This project goes against every moral and ethical standard for land use, public health, and the environment.  No amount of mitigation will replace the critical role that an intact natural wetlands and a 330 acre mature forest play in keeping our Bay clean.  Please don’t let us loose the last remaining intact forest in the Bush River Watershed on your watch.  The Clean Water Commerce Act expanded the uses of the Bay Restoration Fund to include the costs associated with the purchase of cost-effective nitrogen, phosphorus, or sediment load reductions in support of the State’s efforts to restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay.  Why not use the Restoration Fund and Open Space money to preserve this property as park which can continue to filter these pollutants from the Bay?

      The owner of this property, Tom Huber, and developers Chesapeake Real Estate Group/Westport I, LLC, have not been willing to discuss sale of this property instead of development.  With your experience as a developer, and now, with your influence as governor working for the greater good of the state, we need your help. 

Thank-you,

Sample Letter Number 2

Governor Larry Hogan
100 State Circle
Annapolis, MD 21401

Dear Sir,

As Governor you and your team have made historic progress in protecting the Chesapeake Bay.  Your efforts have resulted in the Chesapeake Bay highest water quality in recorded history. I thank you for all of your efforts protecting Maryland Natural Resources.

Abingdon Business Park is a parcel of land in Abingdon Maryland. It is located between Interstate Route 95 and Maryland Route 7 and spans from Route 24 in the south to Abingdon Road in the north.  The land is 326.47 acres of which 314.73 acres are Forest with 85 specimen trees. On the property is the Haha Branch and numerous non-tidal wetlands, streams, and 100-year floodplains.  The Haha Branch and streams feed directly into the Bush River about 4000 feet south of the Anita C. Leight Estuary Center.

The Owners of Abingdon Business Park are proposing building four warehouses with over 2 million square feet. In addition, the plan is to build a hotel, a car wash, restaurants, gas stations, and retail buildings on the site.  The largest and smallest warehouses are right next to the Haha Branch.  The other two warehouses are right along a stream and one building is adjacent to the Natural Resource District (NRD). The proposed plan shows parking lots, storm water management ponds, and part of the main road within the NRD.

The submitted Forest conservation plan indicates, 219.94 acres of forest will be cleared and 49 specimen trees removed.  A net reforestation of 7.89 acres will be required for the project.  The major loss of trees this close to the Top of The Bay has the potential of destroying many Natural Resources.  The removal of the tree buffer will increase the potential for erosion.

All of the runoff from this property goes into the Haha Branch which is next to the Autumn Run Community.  With the loss of over 200 acres of trees and the large amount of runoff, there is the potential for the Haha branch to overflow putting the adjacent neighborhood at risk.  The runoff from all of the imperious surfaces will contain tractor trailer grease, oil, and fuel from huge parking lots.  Also, all of the landscaped areas have the potential of increasing the amount of fertilizers and chemicals going into the bay.

A very large portion of the soil on the site is Russett with slopes up to 30%.  The soil texture and seasonal saturation account for its hazards.  The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture 1975 Soil Survey of Harford County Area, Maryland publication included this cautionary information.  “This land, particularly where it has been disturbed or graded, is severely limited and at times dangerous for some uses.  The clay flows, slumps, or slides when wet, particularly under pressure or load, so it squeezes out from beneath building foundations, allowing footings or basements to crack and settle, and in extreme cases causing serve damage.”  Building large warehouses on this land is a real cause for concern, especially when one warehouse is less than one hundred feet from homes in the Autumn Run community.  

The developer’s contractor doing soil samples removed trees with a chain saw and a bulldozer and graded areas of the land without a Sediment Control Permit. Harford County told me they were just doing soil samples.  I contacted the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE), and filed a formal complaint about the conditions on the property.  A Stop Work Order was issued the same day I called.  I applauded MDE efforts in getting this situation resolved. This example of the disregard of the Laws by the builder shows me they do not care about the environment, and if this project goes forward, the contractors will need to be watched every step of the way.

The loss of so many acres of trees, the potential for flooding downstream, and building of warehouses on unstable soil makes this a bad plan.  There has been so much hard work done for the Maryland Environment, I would hate to see this project destroy part of that success. I am asking if you can help ensure this does not get approved.

Thank you.

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