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News Maryland Harford County Aberdeen / Havre De Grace

Havre de Grace considers changes to rules on auto shops, residential fences, signs

If bills pending before the Havre de Grace Council are approved, an auto repair shop will be allowed to move a few blocks to the former Coca-Cola building and residents will have more options for building fences on corner lots.

A third bill would alter regulations affecting electronic signs and political and temporary signs.

Wilhelm Automotive, which has been on North Juniata Street near Superior Street for 14 years, plans to move down the street to a much larger space in the 300 block, and one of the bills the council is considering will facilitate the move.

Introduced on Aug. 18, the legislation would allow auto repair or service centers in a residential business district. It would also forbid auto businesses from being within 300 feet of the Chesapeake Bay critical area (1,000 feet from the mean high tide mark), which would mean no new auto shops at Wilhelm's current site, councilman Fred Cullum said Wednesday.

"There is an auto repair shop [Wilhelm] that wishes to move into a larger facility because their business has grown and they want more space," Cullum said about the rationale for the bill.

Cullum said he does not expect the bill to affect many other businesses because the legislation also requires a minimum of 10,000 square feet for the repair shop.

If Wilhelm was not allowed to move, "we would probably lose that business. They would probably move out of town," Cullum said.

David Wilhelm, owner of the auto shop, said the new building would allow him to have seven or eight lifts for vehicles instead of two.

He said he has been outgrowing the current building for many years.

"It will definitely look a lot better," Wilhelm added about his plans for the new site. "That is the main goal, just to look more professional."

He also said it would allow him to do state inspections. He said he turns away 10 or 15 requests weekly.

Fence rules

The fence bill would allow fences up to six feet in height in 20-foot-wide rights-of-way in an alley or lane and which border a corner lot.

Cullum said the bill is not in response to any current concern but to past requests for such fences.

The most recent request he recalled was on the corner of Adams Street and Blackberry Lane several years ago, he said.

Sign bill

The sign bill would allow electronic signs to have changing or flashing messages, which Cullum said is part of a range of changes to the city's sign code the council has been hoping to make.

Most recently, Harford Bank has been allowed to have such a sign, with a changing message, Cullum said. If the legislation fails, the bank would be forced to take it down, but "we are trying to accommodate businesses," he explained.

Regulations about temporary and political signs that the bill would also change are mostly in response to a legal ruling elsewhere in the state that Cullum said is in conflict with the city's current rules.

The bill would set a maximum of area of eight square feet for such signs, while removing a requirement or how early they can be set up. Other changes would allow temporary signs along Union and Congress Avenue if they are more than 12 feet from the curb.

Public hearings on all three bills will be Tuesday, Sept. 2, at 7 p.m. in the City Council chamber. The council will also hold a regular meeting Tuesday because of Monday's Labor Day holiday.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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