Election Candidates Discuss Commercial Development
Candidates for Havre de Grace City Council discuss key issues with Patch.
For more on the election, read here.
Below is their take on commercial development in Havre de Grace, with incumbents listed first and challengers listed second, in alphabetical order:
With the impending changes to the city’s zoning, Cullum sees more opportunity for commercial growth in Havre de Grace.
“We’ve added a great deal of commercial, especially along Route 40,” he said. “We only have one or two parcels that haven’t been developed in our industrial park. Our commercial development will have to be along the Route 40 area. We’ve had some, the Harbor Shops, and those kind of things will continue along Route 40.”
Cullum added this caveat for concerned property owners in those pockets in town that may be in flux: “Even if we change the zoning designation, whatever use is there can continue there forever.”
Martin said there are a few areas left to develop, including in the city’s industrial park.
“We have Old Bay Lane, which, God willing, we’ll be able to pave one day,” he said.
Martin said he’s behind commercial development for the benefits it brings to the city, such as jobs that attract good citizens.
That’s why he’s in full support of a new hospital near Interstate 95.
“That’s the single greatest thing we could do, is to bring in a new, state-of-the-art hospital,” he said. “It will be their flagship hospital. It will supersede what they do at Upper Chesapeake in Bel Air. I can imagine hundreds of people that will make salaries that will be homeowners and even renters. They’ll have good people with good jobs with good homes with good kids. The only thing it can do is add to Havre de Grace. It’ll better our community, better our volunteer organizations, better our schools, better our test scores, and ultimately improve home values and quality of life. Commercial development to me is a good thing, particularly if it brings jobs.”
Miller is leading the planning and zoning committee that is digesting the recommendations from the 2010 zoning task force.
He said Route 40 and parts of Ontario and Revolution streets are zoned commercially, while parts of “old town” Havre de Grace are included in a broader category: residential-business.
The goal, he said, is to keep the big box, grocery and pharmacy chains to the Route 40 area.
“We’re trying to get a nice mix and keep them out of the neighborhoods,” Miller said. “Hopefully we’ll make it so we’re more business friendly than we’ve been in the past. We’re in an economic development zone here that should be a good draw for commercial development here along Route 40, and of course along Bulle Rock Parkway, there’s room alongside the hospital.”
Glenn said he commends the mayor and City Council for their efforts to drive new business to Havre de Grace, and added: “That’s one of the reasons I want to join the team.”
The longtime Little League coach borrowed a line from the baseball film, Field of Dreams, when it came to his stance on commercial development.
“If you built it, people will come,” Glenn said. “You’ve got to promote business and economic growth. One way I try to do that in this election, every penny I’ve spent has been in Havre de Grace. I’ve tried to keep it local. I try to do the same thing with some of my Christmas shopping for my wife. I try to go downtown to find something unique.”
Sawyer said design standards must be enforced regardless of the business that comes into the city.
“It’s important for Havre de Grace to maintain it’s historic feel,” he said. “It’s nice that there is a lot of open space in downtown Havre de Grace. “
Sawyer also said that he’s on board with more commercial development near Interstate 95. He said many people get off I-95 looking for the restaurants advertised on signage, only to be thwarted by the drive down MD Route 155.
Sawyer said the current administration fumbled the chance to change that—a claim that Mayor Wayne Dougherty has denied.
“I was a little bit frustrated when I heard that the construction up on Exit 89, the mayor basically shot down any ideas of putting restaurants or anything like that there. To me, that would be ideal there, to have restaurants there,” he said. “It would be ideal to move the Burger King and the McDonald’s up there, because you have the signs on the exit for the McDonald’s and the Burger King, but everyone I talk to that gets off on Exit 89 looking for the Burger King gets lost.”
Scharbrough applauds the personal property tax credit for local businesses proposed by the current administration, and said the city should look into doing away with it altogether.
“I believe in encouraging businesses to come into town,” he said. “The business property tax credit would allow them to enhance their façade. To get the businesses property tax down to zero would also assist businesses.”
He said while keeping an open mind is necessary, so to is keeping Havre de Grace “quaint and charming.”
He said: “I would like to see them maintain that look and enhance historic buildings. Part of that is making the downtown look presentable and clean and safe so people will want to come there.”
With the popularity of the big box chains, Smith said the days of the corner hardware shops is in the past.
The real question when it comes to commercial development, he said, is location.
“What’s appropriate for Route 40? What’s appropriate for up on the hill? What’s appropriate for downtown? Downtown will thrive on tourism dollars,” he said. “Where can you compete? With the creative and niche businesses that you can’t find elsewhere, and the authenticity that you can’t find in the big box stores.”
Smith thinks trendy shops are the ones that fare the best in Havre de Grace.
“You certainly don’t want to stand in the way of businesses,” he said. “As much as I’d like for a certain business to come in, you can’t control that. You can create the environment and provide incentives.”
For more on the election, read here.
The Havre de Grace Election will be held May 8 at the St. Patrick's Church Hall on Pennington Avenue.