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.
Maybe they should send Terry Hanley down there to straighten things out…
This is inevitable when you try to put ten pounds of (y’ know) in a five pound bag.
With more than 35 folks at MacGregor’s searching for a solution, it was disappointing to learn from County Exec. David Craig that we would have to just work it out. Everyone then headed to the City Council meeting to speak (along with a few more additions).
What a stunning surprise to hear Mayor Dougherty say he was going to order a STOP WORK ORDER while the government and business community figure out some immediate solutions to the disastrous parking and traffic issue created.
Many voices were still heard at the HdG City Council meeting. I was very proud of the citizens offering facts … and in some cases.. .potential solutions.
Hopefully this is a beginning of information and dialogue. But, more importantly, I hope it’s the beginning of open discussion and solutions. Dialogue means nothing if we can’t develop solutions. Could we possibly be on the right path? I encourage all interested citizens to stay on top of this issue.
Richie C says
Why was it necessary for Wayne to do it in this way. The water plant is a city enterprise and all he had to do is remove the fence. All the showboating about stop work orders is rediculass…unless there is more to it. For example what was his position when the council authorized the expansion..and when was the expansion authorised? Is this ANOTHER example of his using his power as mayor as a way to get his way on a project he had an issue with as a councilman.
If somone has these answers it would be enlightening. Never the less as mayor he has no need to do a stop work order…he can simply order the fence moved or altered. WITHOUT THE FANFARE.
I also dispute the amount of people deprived from down town as a result at 600. The math is pretzel math. Very rarley is that lot anywhere close to full…even on a saturday night on a summers eve.
Never the less looking out for the buisness is not in itself bad…I just dont care for the self back patting.
Richie C says
Mr Lee realy means that these people will have to park in craig park instead…
Mr Lee…when was this study of parking done? Two hours?
BUT !!! Mr lee…i still like your restaurant. and all well that ends well. Lets just understand that no superhero has saved the day .
Mary Anne says
I am a business owner in Havre de Grace, and invested much time and money into renovating and improving my storefront. I and many others are frustrated at the way the county pushed this through- It was obvious the county executive David Craig did not want this project to have much publicity, because many shop owners and residents did not know until recently.
Furthermore, this expansion is shortsighted- not only are parking spots lost, but beautiful waterfront will be lost. This space shold be accessible to visitors and residents. The city would benefit greatly by moving the plant entirely to a new location, and leasing the waterfront space or developing it into a city attraction.
What will happen in ten years when it needs to be expanded again??? This is money wasted, NOT in the best interest of the city or it’s business owners and residents- and David Craig obviously has money earmarked for a pet project somewhere else…… I am disgusted.
I’ve heard from another St. John Street business owner tonight that there will be a meeting on Monday at 9:30 a.m. in the Havre de Grace City Council Chambers with representatives from Harford County Government – including Director of Government and Community Relations Roxanne Lynch and Public Works Director Bob Cooper, the engineer for the water plant expansion project, Havre de Grace Mayor Wayne Dougherty, other city officials and at least one city council member, business owners and concerned citizens.
The concerned business owners are looking to discuss specific fixes for the parking problem and identify short, medium and long term remedies.
The general sentiment among downtown business owners is that they were not adequately forewarned about the water plant expansion project, which has been in the works for years, and are now in a potentially desperate situation.
If we have learned anything recently, it is that one does not stand in the way of the County Executive.
Look at the similar “tiff” he had with Terry Hanley and downtown Bel Air businesses over parking during the “Streetscape” project. His basic solution was “deal with it.”
Sounds like thats going to be the response to HdG as well.
Moving the plant doesn’t seem practical either. Imagine the infrastructure modifications and the disruption this would cause.
Richie C says
Mary ann….ok…move the plant….just remember to pay for it too. What type of attraction do you propose…a casino? Where would the parking for this attraction be if its where the parking currently is? Why do some in Havre de Grace think they are the only ones who have an interest in this city and that its all about and for them?
To be quite honest ,Maryann, I dont realy care how much you payed to “fix up your buisness”. I want good water to drink. I want it done legally. This is whats needed to do that. When this is over there will be no real impact on the scenery and simple solutions are available for your precious parking….if your receptive. Maryann….I have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars digging roots in this city. You are not the only one and its unfair for a select few to run roughshod over the rest of us.
Your time to speak was when this was in frount of the council. Not now after the fact. As a buisness woman you have the responsibility to be aware of what can affect your buisness and to speak up when appriotate. I do in my buisness. Delays may cause the rest of the tax payers ,(me and the other 12,000 peasently homowners and residents), to have to pay the contractor for his delays and extra expenses. This is estimated at $5000.00 per day.
Maryann…the fact is that the go along…get along…dont question mentality has come back to roost. As long as it wasnt you…ill bet you never raised an issue or questioned anything…even this…now that it affects you…wow …your all over it. I would love to say…”to late the decision is final” but somone will come up with a solution for you.
Mabey there is a lesson to be learned here!
Richie C says
Additional to my 4:09 am comment………
This is reminisent to Nagan throwing his own citizens under the ,(school ), bus during katrina. When the deed was done it was all somone elses fault. Pointing fingers at the county exec and county in general is just plain wrong, tackey, small, petty, devious, and very transparent political trickory. Its a simple deflection. If you beleive it you need a reality check. The fact is, Maryann, that the city dropped the ball on you, could care less about you, and when you screamed en mass…the heat was deflected to the county exec. The county exec is not the mayor of HdG and im sure if the county meddled in our affaires you would be upset. Its OUR PLANT….make those …councilmen and women … do their jobs!
Maryann…….why were you not en mass following this issue when it was debated at councill? The lesson here is to SPEAK UP and dont worry who you pi# off…its their job to listen….before this type of stuff happens.
Now for the ramifications……..maryann….
The project is delayed and may be altered…adding much cost. Should the tax payers in general (12000 of US) pay for your lack of interest (down town hdg?….chamber of commerce?…other associations?) at the time and your unhappieness with it now……mabey a special down town tax surcharg on buisnesses should be inacted to pay for this excess cost so there is no impact on the other 11,999 of us for your inaction and now your ground swell of disapproval. Mary ann…this could have been dealt with in a different way…parking can be made available to you…and you should have it…but this was pure knee JERK politics. This was NOT a super hero rescue.
Of course maryann im picking on you to make a point…im sure it was slid by you….and nobodys perfect….but the point had to be made. Hope your a good sport…and best of luck.