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Proposed apartment complex draws concern from Havre de Grace residents

Plans for a 60-unit apartment complex proposed for two vacant, wooded parcels across the street from Meadowvale Elementary School in Havre de Grace drew a number of concerns from area residents and officials attending a recent community input meeting on the project.

Homes for America, based in Annapolis, is a nonprofit homebuilder that specializes in “developing and preserving” affordable rental properties, according to its website. The firm is seeking approval from the City of Havre de Grace to develop Harbour Hills, with two buildings on the south site at Route 155 and Graceview Drive — across the street from the elementary school’s front parking lot — and three structures proposed for the north site off of Quarry Road across from the school buildings and basketball courts, according to the site plan.

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The south site off of Graceview Drive includes an open field, trees and high grass — a deer could be seen grazing in the field after the community input meeting. Much of the north site is wooded, with trees close together and high brush, and it is between an existing apartment complex and single-family houses farther north on Quarry Road. The sites comprise a combined 14.86 acres, according to the site plan.

Bel Air attorney Joseph Snee discussed the plan, which was presented along with an artist’s renderings of the apartment buildings, during a community input meeting held July 18 in the Havre de Grace Community Center off of Lagaret Lane, a short distance from Meadowvale Elementary and the proposed building sites.

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Snee, along with representatives of Homes for America, fielded a number of audience questions and concerns about issues such as whether the apartment complex would include subsidized housing, how the environment and local wildlife would be affected, whether the new buildings and parking areas could increase runoff during rain storms, how much additional vehicle traffic could be generated, plus if the builder would receive taxpayer subsidies for developing housing for low-income renters.

Snee noted a model for financing the project, such as private equity or bank funding, has not been selected yet. He stressed throughout the meeting that the developer is seeking input from the community and a number of decisions have not been made yet about the project.

“It’s early, so spotting the issues now is really important,” he said.

Jon Martin, who lives in the neighborhood near the two sites, asked how the project could affect the Havre de Grace Police Department shooting range nearby. Martin said he lives “all the way up the hill” from the range, which is near the community center and the Vulcan Materials Company quarry, but he can hear gunfire when he is outside working or walking his dog.

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“It’s loud, it’s disturbing, and you can hear it,” he said.

Martin expressed concern for the apartment residents who could hear gunfire, as well as for the safety of children exploring the woods around the shooting range and quarry.

Snee said the developers can review that concern with Mayor William T. Martin, City Council President David Glenn and Police Chief Teresa Walter.

“If that’s an issue, we’ll deal with it accordingly,” he said of the shooting range.

Snee also said developers will work “very closely” with the school system, in response to concerns from Havre de Grace resident Charlie Mike about impacts to Meadowvale Elementary.

Glenn, who had announced the community input meeting during a prior City Council meeting and encouraged people to attend and have their voices heard, was in attendance himself at the July 18 meeting.

He reminded audience members that the “brand new” replacement Havre de Grace Middle/High School is scheduled to open next fall and could draw a number of new residents to the city. The combined middle and high school, which is under construction off of Lewis Lane, is scheduled to be open by the 2020-2021 school year.

“I think we’re going to be the hot commodity,” Glenn said.

Volney Ford, chairman of the Havre de Grace Planning Commission, was also in the audience for the community input meeting. He stressed that members of the public will have more opportunities to give their views about Harbour Hills, such as during upcoming reviews by the planning commission and the city’s Board of Appeals.

The developer will have to obtain conditional use approval from the appeals board, according to Ford. The land is zoned for R2 residential use, and multi-family dwellings such as Harbour Hills are classified as conditional uses that require approval by the appeals board before proceeding, according to the city zoning code.

Ford said, in response to the multiple questions, that developers typically have “all their ducks in a row” and have answered most questions from city officials, “one way or the other so we have got something concrete that we can dig into.”

Snee said the public is invited to planning commission and appeals board hearings.

Glenn said community input meetings are not required for every development in the city, but said officials encouraged the Harbour Hills developer to hold one. He said community members should stay engaged with the project.

“We’ll keep them engaged,” he said after the meeting. “It gives them a chance to have their voices heard.”

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