The Harford County Board of Education has appealed the decision by the Bel Air Planning Commission to approve the site plan for the new Homestead/Wakefield Elementary School conditioned on construction of a public road that would run through the campus, connecting East and West MacPhail roads. The appeal was filed in Harford County Circuit Court on May 11.
At its April 25 meeting, the board discussed the school replacement project, which will replace the overcapacity three-building school with a single building on the Wakefield campus in Bel Air.
The project has been planned for phased construction over fiscal years 2022-2024 with funding provided by the county and state, according to agenda documents. In November 2021, the Interagency Commission on School Construction approved the project for state funding through the Built to Learn Act. The county has also committed to the local portion of capital funding, according to agenda documents.
During the planning and design phases of the project, the project team worked with the Town of Bel Air to complete the plan review process as a prerequisite to obtaining site plan approval. But, the town demanded that Harford County Public Schools commit to the use of surplus school property to establish a right of way that will allow a connecting public road to be built across the campus.
The Board of Education did not approve the road access. Now, the board has decided to appeal the town’s demand.
“The conditions set forth by the Bel Air Planning Commission’s decision have disrupted Harford County Public Schools’ ability to carry out its educational purpose and, if imposed, will serve no educational purpose,” Jillian Lader, HCPS manager of communications, said.
The court appeal supersedes any power to adjust or refine the current decision and follows the town code, said Patti Parker, Bel Air spokesperson. This process will not impede the review of permits that are not related to areas involving the public road connection, she added.
The town commissioners and Bel Air Mayor Kevin Bianca have no further comment, Parker said.