New Havre de Grace Hospital

The public information meeting for the new hospital planned in Havre de Grace will be held Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Havre de Grace Community Center on Lagaret Lane. The city council is considering amendments to the zoning requirements for the hospital site, shown above, but won't vote on them until after Tuesday's public meeting. (submitted photo, Homestead Publishing / July 18, 2012)

The Havre de Grace City Council introduced an amended ordinance Monday that toughens some of the development requirements for the new hospital planned at I-95 and Route 155.

The council, however, held off voting on the changes to mixed-office employment center zoning for the hospital site until after the public information session on the hospital scheduled next week by Upper Chesapeake Health.

The public information meeting is this Tuesday, July 24, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Havre de Grace Community Center, 100 Lagaret Lane.

Curtis Coon, the planning commission chairman, said the three highlights of the amended ordinance are: providing the planning commission with more oversight, in addition to the department of planning; allowing more case-by-case flexibility on required setbacks; and suggesting the site plan include elevation drawings that show architectural features.

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The council added several amendments of its own, including: requiring that outdoor speakers not be audible past the mixed-office zone boundary, requiring Dumpsters to be compatible with the site and not be visible from adjacent streets or residential areas, requiring lighting systems that can shield light from adjacent properties, setting standards for minimal glare, requiring landscaping to incorporate a variety of vegetation to buffer the property from residential lots and reinstating language allowing the developer to provide 300 feet of office space to the city at no cost for tourism purposes.

More tourism offices?

The latter proposal drew some criticism, and both Councilman Joe Smith and Councilwoman Barbara Wagner voted against it.

Smith said he is not against tourism but questions the need for another tourism office, wondering whether the city would have to pay to refurbish the space and who would pay utilities and maintenance.

He said a visitors office in the proposed hotel by the hospital would make sense but also pointed out there are already two visitors centers in the form of the I-95 travel plazas within about 10 miles on either side of Havre de Grace.

Smith also asked if other alternatives to a visitors center have been considered, such as an enhanced social media campaign.

"I think there are other ways to reach more people that can be measured than perhaps a visitor center," he said.

Councilman Bill Martin said he appreciated those concerns and he also has concerns about a lot of empty stores in downtown Havre de Grace.

"I'd like to see if we could do more," Martin said, adding that the new facility would have more interactive screens and kiosks.

Council President Randy Craig also introduced an amendment allowing the planning commission more input during the concept plan review stage, in addition to the input of the city's planning department.

"This is a very large and important project," Craig said. "I think the concept plan is a big part of the what the citizens see and buy into later on and certainly don't see any harm in letting the planning commission review the plan later in the process."

Smith was alone in voting against that amendment, saying it makes sense in principle but he was concerned about making a change on the public body without further discussion and wanted to consider the "pros and cons down the road."

Lighting, noise concerns

Several residents from the Paddocks section of Bulle Rock again expressed their concerns regarding lighting and noise pollution from the proposed project, but also said they appreciate the council's attempt to address their concerns, especially with Craig's amendment.

Rodney Gaston, a resident of Monarchos Drive near the new hospital site, said he wants more specific language to curb bright lighting.

"When we bought our homes in the Paddocks, we were looking forward to the quiet enjoyment of our property in a nice city and town," Gaston told the city council. "Devoid from the ordinance was any such consideration [of lighting measurements or requirements], which is why when I spoke last time we were particularly concerned with the glare."