BY BRYNA ZUMER, firstname.lastname@example.org
11:23 AM EDT, April 3, 2013
The Havre de Grace City Council has unveiled the plan for waterfront park the city will build if it acquires Steve Gamatoria's property just north of the Concord Point Lighthouse.
The decision to buy Gamatoria's property, which he is offering to the city for $1.29 million, will be made by the voters of Havre de Grace through a ballot question during the May 7 city election.
During Monday night's council meeting, Mayor Wayne Dougherty showed a conceptual drawing of the site, which would include a bridge connection near Concord Street by the existing public fishing pier, a proposed observation deck, a connection to the Promenade and an open event space for gatherings, weddings, prom pictures and the like.
"This is strictly a proposal, but to kind of put aside some of the comments [of] 'Well, you're buying a piece of property and you don't even know what you're going to do with it,'" Dougherty explained.
"We said it would remain open space and that's exactly what this proposal is," he added.
Dougherty said "hopefully" the voters will support the project and then the council will do a formal presentation on the plan.
"I think it's a great plan for the site, and one of the biggest things that's giving the waterfront back to our citizens," he said.
Gamatoria, meanwhile, came before the council Monday to defend his offer of the land to the city.
The former city councilman noted he has diligently stayed out of the public eye during discussions on the land, and he also hinted that he could return to Havre de Grace politics after the waterfront deal is over.
"My single most important mission is that this not become a political issue," Gamatoria said, explaining it is simply an offer from his family of "what I believe is the single most beautiful pice of land in Havre de Grace."
"As this process unfolded, I specifically have remained at arm's length [with] my participation at council meetings," he said, adding he has postponed plans for a second year to run for council or mayor "until this is over."
Gamatoria said several e-mails and letters to the editor of The Record have contained inaccuracies about the number of parcels, the size of the property and transparency of the process.
He said he found it "disturbing" when "reckless information" was thrown around and said it was disrespectful to his family to insinuate that they are involved in any less-than-transparent deals.
"The fact that these discussions have occurred and been supported by two councils…and the fact that this proposal is being sent as a ballot issue sends a very clear message" of transparency, he said.
Gamatoria said his family has always understood their ownership of the land to be "nothing but stewardship" and noted they have made "numerous improvements to refine its beauty, and to the shoreline to make sure environmental integrity will be properly maintained."
He said the concept plans shown by the council "were absolutely perfect and what we had in mind at some point in time, fully accessible to all citizens."
A common complaint made to him in the past was that the city should have never sold its waterfront property, Gamatoria said. The family has owned its property since 1995 and the home on it was already there when they bought it.
"I agreed then and I agree now: the waterfront is what attracts people to Havre de Grace," he said.
Gamatoria said the shoreline is protected by riprap and other environmental defenses, and the property includes a 7,500-pound electric boat lift.
He said he pays annual property taxes to the city of slightly more than $5,000 and to the county of slightly more than $10,000.
Gamatoria urged anyone with questions to contact him at email@example.com.