Perryman residents express frustrations with warehouse legislation at town hall meeting

Sep. 6—Tensions flared between Harford County Executive Bob Cassilly and Perryman residents at an Aug. 30 town hall meeting addressing upcoming county warehouse legislation.

The town hall was held by the citizen-led 3P Protect Perryman Peninsula coalition, which has been fighting a proposed development of 5.2 million square feet of warehouse space on the community's Mitchell property.

Residents expressed frustration, saying that Cassilly, who, in his 2022 campaign for county executive, voiced support for 3P, hasn't done enough for their cause.

"I feel very betrayed by you," longtime Perryman resident Ralph Geisel said to Cassilly during the town hall's question-and-answer period. "We know what we want. We want no warehouses on the Mitchell property."

Another Perryman resident, Kate McDonald, asked why studies, such as a water study, had not been done under the warehouse moratorium that was enacted by the Harford County Council in April.

"If you approve one more project that brings one more truck into our community, we will file an [environmental justice] lawsuit," McDonald warned.

Cassilly said updated studies had not been completed because of the "exorbitant amount of time" each one would take.

"I'm here to engage in dialogue," Cassilly said. "Everything I've done [has been] in good faith and busting my butt. I'm not going to respond to political hit jobs like that."

Cassilly and members of the County Council have worked over the summer to bring forth legislation addressing warehousing in the county. The council returned from its summer recess on Tuesday. In order to pass legislation before the warehouse moratorium ends on Oct. 11, any bill would have been introduced at the Tuesday meeting in order to provide for the mandated 30 days in between a bill's introduction and its public hearing.

Leigh Maddox, one of the organizers of the 3P coalition, said the group held the town hall because it was unhappy with the work done over the summer.

"We are significantly concerned," Maddox said, "enough so that we think it's important to convene the entire community together to make sure that people understand what's going on."

Council President Patrick Vincenti and District F council member Jacob Bennett, who represents Perryman, also were present at the town hall. Harford representatives state Sen. Mary-Dulany James and Del. Steve Johnson also attended.

James and Johnson both expressed support for 3P's efforts. James said what 3P has done is "incredibly valuable to Harford County and this state." Johnson reminded the crowd that "it was not developers that elected us to represent them; it was you folks."

Many residents pointed out vast differences between drafts of the bill put forth by Cassilly and Bennett. One of the main differences was the maximum size a warehouse can be. Cassilly's bill capped space at 1 million square feet, while Bennett's bill said 250,000 square feet.

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Vincenti commended the work that both Cassilly and Bennett had done over the summer toward putting together the warehouse legislation.

"Nothing is chiseled in stone," Vincenti said.

Bennett said that all that matters to him is what legislation is introduced at the upcoming council meeting.

"As long as we land in a good place, I'm fine with some turbulence," he said.

Maddox said the town hall would be a "reckoning" between the community and its elected officials.

"Either they're going to hear us and make adjustments," she said, "or there's going to be problems.

"We've really had enough."