When I ran for City Council last year, one of the primary questions I was asked time and time again was "What are you going to do to protect the Havre de Grace Waterfront?" Not long after being selected to serve on the Havre de Grace City Council I learned that the city was negotiating to acquire the Gamatoria property at 701 Concord St. I felt this would be a tremendous opportunity to do just that…"protect the Havre de Grace Waterfront." More importantly, this real estate was located right next to an historic landmark on the east coast; the Concord Point Lighthouse.
This has been a long process (over a year) but it was our goal to try to put a package together to allow the City of Havre de Grace to potentially purchase this outstanding waterfront property. The Gamatoria family has been very patient through this entire process and I commend them for their patience. Given the current state of the economy, not many would have waited for a year while we worked through this process.
Unfortunately, there have been many concerns elevated as we approach May 7th, Election Day. I had one individual approach me to inquire why we as a City Council were caving in to the Gamatoria family demands. WOW! Nothing could be further from the truth. As a family, they are planning to sell the property. They came to the City of Havre de Grace to allow us the first right of refusal in the event that we wanted to purchase the land to protect the waterfront. That is all that occurred. The Gamatoria family placed no demands on us, the City Council.
There has been much dialogue about the appraised value of the land. We did have the property in question appraised which came in at $1.3 million. Anyone can question the so-called appraised value, but given the location and the fact it is located next to a historic landmark, there are not too many properties to compare it to. If you consider the County's 2006 purchase of a lot on the other side of the lighthouse of a parcel half the size of the current proposed purchase and with no waterfront for the price of $1.2 million, one can draw their own conclusion about price. Again, this is a much smaller parcel (.5051 acres) with no waterfront. That being said and given the close proximity to 701 Concord St., it appears the appraisal is in the ballpark and a fair appraisal. In addition, if the final decision is to purchase the property, it is our plans to sell the house and have the buyer re-locate it to offset the cost to the taxpayers.
More importantly, the Gamatoria family could have shopped their property, much like athletes shop their services, and once they got the highest offer/bid, could have then asked the City of Havre de Grace if we wanted to match that offer. Fortunately for us, that didn't happen. It would have undoubtedly resulted in a much higher price tag for the City and its residents.
The question was asked why the city put a down payment on the property. This was to show good faith on our part and to give you the residents a chance to procure such a valuable piece of property. A failure to do this would have resulted in the Gamatorias marketing their property to another party. We did not want that to happen before you the residents got a chance to weigh in on the decision. Failure to take such action would have been an opportunity lost.
It has also been inferred that this is a "want" by the City Council. Keep in mind, your City Council unanimously voted to put the purchase of this property on the ballot. We wanted to reinforce that our vote should not count any more than your vote.
Last but certainly not least, if you step back in time there were many opponents to the now infamous 'promenade.' Now that it has become one of our hidden jewels, we tend to forget that. Fortunately, the leadership for the City of Havre de Grace pursued that project. It has been a huge boost for tourism and local economy.
Bottom line up front, the members of the City Council felt that the purchase of this property is truly a win-win for the City of Havre de Grace, the place we are all so proud to call home. But again, it is not our decision to make. Instead, it is in the hands of you, the voters who turn out on May 7th.
For me personally, I will be voting "yes" for the purchase of the property on May 7th. I truly feel it is the right thing to do. Again, we rarely get the opportunity to purchase such a valuable parcel of waterfront property.
If you have any concerns regarding the purchase of this property, I encourage you to contact the Mayor at City Hall at (410) 939-1800. He is very accessible. I only ask that you just be informed before you make a final decision. See you at the polls.
Havre de Grace City CouncilCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun