Plans are in the works to build what would be Harford County's tallest building, at seven stories, as part of a new hospital and medical center at I-95 in Havre de Grace. The new hospital complex was discussed at Monday's Havre de Grace City Council meeting. During the same meeting, the council passed a $12 million operating budget for 2013, with $700,000 less in the general fund than in the 2012 budget.
The city's real property tax rate will be slightly reduced to 58 cents per $100 of assessed value, from almost 59 cents.
The hospital complex promises to help with future budgets, according to at least one long-time Havre de Grace businessman and civic leader.
With the new health care complex would come more, high-paying jobs, according to Allen Fair.
The hospital will mean "well-paid people," who will want to live in Havre de Grace, Fair said at Monday night's public hearing..
"People don't realize the magnitude of what that hospital is going to do for Havre de Grace," he said.
A handful of Havre de Grace residents, who attended a public hearing about the planned new hospital Monday night, aren't opposed to the proposal for the Route 155/I-95 interchange near their neighborhood, but said they have some concerns about plans for the site. About a dozen residents and Upper Chesapeake Health representatives attended a City of Havre de Grace public hearing to express their hopes and concerns about the site proposed for the new hospital.
Several residents of the nearby Paddocks of Bulle Rock community said they are not completely opposed to the project, but are disappointed they had not been consulted on the proposed mixed-use employment center.
Proposed changes to the city's zoning ordinance to accommodate mixed use will result in changes to building setback and height requirements in particular.
Some residents expressed particular concern about the possibility of overly bright lighting around the planned new hospital, as well as other quality of life issues.
"We do not intend to stop the development of the hospital," Jim Barry, president of Paddocks homeowners association, said. "We're not going to come out with picket signs and fight it. We're pretty reasonable residents. We really want to make sure that the effort extended [Upper Chesapeake Health] is extended to us as well."
He added many of the rules addressing noise and lighting pollution, and buffers between different land uses, are too vague.
"You could drive a tractor trailer through them; they're almost useless the way they're written," he said.
Another resident, Rodney Gaston, said the ordinance only requires the development to have "minimal glare," and he asked for more objective criteria for measuring brightness.
"I have no idea what minimal glare means. How do we enforce that part of the ordinance?" he asked.
Gaston and some other neighbors on Monarchos Drive also have concerns about the potential of changing the nature of their community, such as the creation of a bike trail and the destruction of some natural habitats.
"Our development is a dead end street," he said. "We don't have sidewalks; we don't want sidewalks."
"It's hard enough dodging the traffic from our own neighbors than to have a stream of bicyclists coming into our neighborhood," Gaston added.
Lynn Jurkowski said she did not know about the proposed development when she moved to Havre de Grace. She, too, is concerned about its impact on the quality of life.
"We have a lot of animals, birds, things that are back there that are going to go away," she said, adding she is concerned about the minimal setbacks and having a business back up to her house.