Harford council votes down plan to buy Havre de Grace waterfront parcels

The Harford County Council on Tuesday voted down a plan to buy property on the Havre de Grace waterfront for a park and river trail head.

Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti, the plan's chief proponent, cast the only vote for it during the council's legislative session in Bel Air.

Two bills would have authorized the county to spend up to $3.47 million to acquire properties at 649 and 627 Water Street for the purpose of creating a Waterfront Heritage Park along the Susquehanna River.

Lisanti, executive director of the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway, had said the purchase would have provided a connection of the city's open spaces along the riverfront with Millard Tydings Park at the far south side of the city.

Councilman Dion Guthrie abstained, explaining later that he did not know where the funding would come from for the purchase. The other five council members voted against the bills.

Council President Billy Boniface said after the meeting that there were "numerous, numerous issues with the bills."

During previous sessions, some council members had expressed qualms both about the prices to acquire properties, the site of a former heating oil and gasoline storage terminal, and the potential cost of cleaning them up, which a fiscal impact note stated could run over $1 million.

During the meeting Lisanti and Havre de Grace Mayor Wayne Dougherty tried to speak out about their disappointment with the vote, but Boniface kept a tight rein on the proceedings.

Lisanti started to say the evening was "an ugly display of politics" before Boniface stopped her. She said she would save her comments for a later time.

Dougherty, who had signed up to speak during public comment period at the end of the meeting, was informed speakers could not talk about legislation that had just been acted upon and would have to wait until the next meeting.

Dougherty said he was under the impression that he would be able to speak about the Water Street bills on Tuesday.

He also told council members that they should consider giving residents a chance to talk at the beginning of the meeting, not the end, and Boniface said that is being considered.

"The current citizen input is not very effective in how it is set up," the council president said.

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