Two weeks after it was unanimously approved by the city council, the Mixed Office/Equipment Zoning ordinance, which would bring new hotels, offices and retail development to Route 155 and Bulle Rock Parkway, has been vetoed by Havre de Grace Mayor Wayne Dougherty – ostensibly because he says the plan should also include a new baseball/football/soccer field.
The city council approved the MOE Ordinance with a six-to-zero vote on Dec. 1, yet on Monday, Dec. 15, Dougherty issued a memo announcing he was vetoing the ordinance and offering his explanation why.
In his memo, Dougherty wrote:
First, I feel that any development, be it commercial or residential be held accountable to provide a much needed recreation area. It is my opinion that Ordinance 901 require a Multi-Use playing field. This field shall provide for recreation programs for Youth Football, Soccer, and Baseball; additionally, it is my opinion that a Parking Area be provided as well as a storage building for Maintaince Equipment. Further, this will be included in the square footage ofrecreational uses.
It is important to remember that in the proposed MOE development there is already passive recreation provided with a trail system that is incorporated into the design.
Dougherty, however, seems adamant about including a sports field at this location – even though the county is in the process of developing fields on Chapel Road and despite proposals considered a few years ago to build a sports complex on the city-owned property near the old community center off Lagaret Lane.
Dougherty’s veto has left many scratching their heads. From the looks of some of the specific uses he wants removed from the MOE ordinance (bakery, barbershop, card shop, coffee shop, florist, office supply, etc.) it gives the appearance there may be some special interests he is trying to protect.
This veto comes from the same person who apparently dismissed a report from a committee that was appointed by former Mayor David Craig and who gave back an $80,000 grant to hire a zoning consultant, because he thought he could do it in house.
Also, all of the proposed changes to the original MOE were staffed through the planning director who was hired by Dougherty, but who no longer works for the city. City council members themselves also appear to be in the dark regarding Dougherty’s veto and other machinations.
Other changes Dougherty proposed in his veto memo deal with design standards and height restrictions. Among other things, he wants to include air conditioners on the roof in the overall building height.
Nonetheless, Dougherty wrote that his intent wasn’t to completely derail the MOE, but merely amend it:
Further, the delivery of this Veto message is in no way infringing on the Ordinance to become law by the 45th day and I feel that this gives Council ample time, prior to our January 5th meeting to take action on the amendments I am suggesting.
That’s good news because, from what many are saying, including residents of Bulle Rock and surrounding neighborhoods, they all seemed happy with the prospect of being able to eat and shop close to their homes without having to travel to Bel Air or beyond.