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New building remains slow in Havre de Grace, planning chief says

But city officials say they are doing all they can to attract new homes

BY BRYNA ZUMER, Aegis staff

11:09 AM EDT, July 14, 2014

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As Havre de Grace city officials continue to wrestle with the city's mounting water and sewer deficit, the new construction activity they have been counting on to help bail them out of the financial mess remains elusive.

City Planning Director Neal Mills told the city council during its July 7 meeting that new construction remains slow compared to previous years.

Mills said 169 permits were approved for single family homes in 2010, although that was the end of the final extension of a tax credit for first-time home buyers.

In 2011, the city dropped to 65. It then got 87 permits in 2012, 36 in 2013 and 45 in 2014. Greenway Farms, for one, had 12 building permits in 2012, six in 2013 and none in 2014, he said. All 45 permits for the last fiscal year were in Bulle Rock.

Councilman Bill Martin  said the city needs more new houses and he believes “we are on the right track, but doing nothing to solve this problem is not an option.”

“I believe we are doing everything we can,” he said. “We are not complacent.”

Overall, Harford County's housing market remains in the doldrums.

According to figures released by the Harford County Department of Planning and Zoning at the end of June, permits to build 82 single family houses were issued in the first six months of this year compared with 112 a year earlier. The county issued 92 permits for new townhouses in the first six months of both years and has not issued a permit for an apartment unit, condominium or rental, since 2012.

The county issued permits do not cover building activity inside the municipalities of Aberdeen, Bel Air and Havre de Grace, which control their own permits.

DPW updates

Havre de Grace Public works director Larry Parks said North Juniata Street would be resurfaced starting this week to make it handicapped accessible. The project will involve some detours and parking restrictions but “should not be too significant,” he said.

A water main will also be installed July 9 through July 21 at Otsego and Pearl streets, which could also involve some detours, Parks said.

Economic Development Director Tom Lofland said a new business coming soon plans to bring about 12 new jobs to town, in a rent-to-own arrangement.

5K concerns

Police Chief Teresa Walter told the city council she has some traffic concerns with the upcoming Color The Bay 5K because of the number of possible participants.

She said almost 2,500 runners and walkers are expected, far more than the city’s other races. The event is set for 9 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 13, and Walter suggested making it at an earlier time.

“The concern I had was closing off to all the traffic on a Saturday from 9 to about 11,” she said. “We're going to have to work through that just a little bit to figure that out a little bit better.”

The council agreed to table a vote on amending the application for the run.

bzumer@theaegis.com