Facing public pressure from of some of his city’s most prominent business leaders and restaurateurs, Havre de Grace Mayor Wayne Dougherty issued an immediate stop work order Monday night and instructed city police officers and public works employees to take down the fence that had been erected around the heavily-used water plant parking lot.
With expansion of the water treatment plant on the way, the sprawling, waterside public parking lot on St. John Street was recently fenced off – a move which whipped the downtown business district into a frenzy.
Considering how difficult it can be to find a place to park in Havre de Grace on any given day, this from someone who worked right in the middle of downtown for several years, the loss of the water plant parking lot would be staggering for many of the small city businesses.
Local business owners and the Havre de Grace Main Street, Inc. group assembled for a pre-city council meeting Monday afternoon in the MacGregor’s Banquet Room to discuss the closure of the water plant parking lot, including the lack of information provided to citizens on the lot closure as well as the negative impact it could have on the entire downtown business area.
March 4, 2008
BY AUTHORITY AND ORDER OF THE MAYOR OF THE CITY OF HAVRE DE GRACE AND IN ACCORDANCE WITH SECTION 114 OF THE 2003 INTERNATIONAL BUILDING CODE, CITY ORDINANCE #861 A STOP WORK ORDER IS HEREBY DIRECTED WHEREBY ALL WORK SHALL IMMEDIATELY CEASE AND DESIST UPON PERMIT NO: 20080207 – WATER TREATMENT PLANT EXPANSION AND PERMIT NO: 20080269 – GRADING AND STORM WATER MANAGEMENT, WATER TREATMENT PLANT UNTIL SUCH TIME AS PUBLIC SAFETY HAS BEEN ABATED IN AN ACCEPTABLE MANNER AND SHALL REMAIN IN FORCE UNTIL SUCH TIME AS REALEASED BY THE SAME AUTHORITY: PUBLIC SAFETY ABATEMENT SHALL REQUIRE THE IMMEDIATE REMOVAL OF THE CONTAINMENT FENCE INSTALLED AND ENCLOSING THE PUBLIC PARKING FACILITY AND DRIVE LANES LOCATED BEHIND THE WATER TREATMENT PLANT AND ANY CONSTRUCTION MATERIAL RELATED TO THE ABOVE PROJECT LOCATED ON THE SAME PARKING FACILITY.
In an email to concerned local business owners, Dan Lee of MacGregor’s Restaurant summed up what the full impact of the parking lot closure could mean to his and other downtown businesses:
“With 56 parking spaces taken away, it means…
a. On a summer Saturday, that’s 56 cars every two hours from noon til 10 p.m., that’s 280 lost cars in one day with nowhere to park. With an average of over two people per car, it’s safe to say there will be at least 600 people that won’t be walking in our downtown…not to my restaurant, not to Tidewater, not to Coakley’s and not to any of the shops or businesses in a three or 4 block area. At $20 per person, that’s $12,000 per weekend day lost.
b. What will we do during First Fridays, Decoy Festival, Mother’s Day, LPGA, Fourth of July or just any nice day during the summer?”
Former city council candidate Tom Fitzpatrick addressed the situation during Monday night’s meeting with the following comments and suggestions:
1. Institute a formal process involving the County, the City, the General Contractor, the Consulting Engineer(s), and representatives of the affected business community, to develop maintenance of parking plan intended to minimize the negative impact of the project to the public safety and the downtown business community, and provide for proper public notice regarding changes in the configuration and availability of parking during the construction project.
2. Revise the existing site plan to minimize the permanent impact on available parking due to this project. The current drawings show a net reduction of 24 spaces due to the addition of green space and the fencing off of an empty lane adjacent to the new grit removal facility. Reductions in impervious surfaces required by current environmental regulations can be met with the use of permeable pavers, without reducing available parking.
Finally, should the City elect to accept these recommendation, or develop any other recommendations of their own, these requirements should be inserted into the contract documents as a change order. A memorandum of understanding or a resolution will not be sufficient. Incorporating these requirements into the contract will give us the enforcement and compliance leverage we need to see this project through with minimum impact to the community.
Word is that Harford County Executive and Havre de Grace resident David Craig showed up at MacGregor’s prior to the city council meeting to attempt to smooth over the situation.
Dougherty announced during the Monday night session that the fence would be taken down immediately Tuesday morning until the city can come up with some other resolution.