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Havre de Grace’s zoning code is being tweaked, which city officials hope will promote more development, both in existing neighborhoods and on land that has been undeveloped for a number of years.

The City Council voted unanimously Monday in favor of Ordinance 1025, which revises the parking requirements for single-family dwelling lots recorded in Harford County land records before March 15, 1982. Developers of parcels and “lots of record” — except for properties along an alley or lane — are exempt from city requirements that off-street parking areas be part of any development of a modified or new building, according to the language in the ordinance.

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“This is an effort from our planning department to encourage opportunities for infill development on existing lots for single-family dwellings,” said Councilman James Ringsaker, who noted the off-street parking requirement would be removed.

“We have lots all over town that are just vacant because of our restrictive parking requirements,” he added.

Councilwoman Casi Boyer expressed her support for the ordinance and encouraged her colleagues to vote in favor of it. She said greater infill development increases the city’s overall tax base and promotes the use of existing municipal infrastructure, rather than running new infrastructure out to land away from the city center.

“Infill development makes a lot of sense and anything that we can do to encourage it and facilitate it, I think is [a] 100-percent win for everybody in the city,” Boyer said.

She urged city officials to take a more cautious approach should the next piece of legislation, Ordinance 1026, be adopted. The ordinance would allow mixed-use developments with residential components to be built in commercial zones.

The council voted unanimously to introduce the ordinance Monday, and a public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 2.

Ringsaker said city leaders “have some property we want to develop, and we want to move Havre de Grace into the future.”

“We want to still maintain our Havre de Grace feel, so we’re working on some of the ordinances to clean them up and bring them more in line with how we hope to see development happen,” he said.

Boyer said she thinks allowing mixed-use development is commercial areas is “a very innovative approach” but noted “caution needs to be taken,” as Havre de Grace is considered a walkable and bikeable community.

She said Route 40, which is one area considered for mixed-use projects, is not walkable or bikeable, however. City officials must ensure builders and investors understand that “these are things that are important to the people of Havre de Grace, making sure that our neighbors can walk and that our neighbors can bike around safely, especially children,” Boyer said.

Ringsaker noted how Ordinance 1026 ties in with another city initiative to annex property along Route 40. The council held a public hearing Monday regarding the proposed annexation of 8.83 acres at 1921 Pulaski Highway; the council did not take a vote on it Monday, though.

David Layfield, principal of Salisbury-based Green Street Housing, spoke in favor of the annexation, plus he spoke in favor of Ordinance 1026 later in the meeting, during the period reserved for citizen comments on items on the meeting agenda. Layfield’s company is developing the mixed-use Blenheim Run on the subject property.

“In our opinion, modern residential development requires access to services and transportation, and we believe that this is a very good site to house a mixed-use development,” he said.

Layfield said his company is “trying to follow development best practices." He noted many new developments have a mix of uses with commercial structures toward the front with residential units on top of commercial buildings or behind them.

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Mayor William T. Martin thanked council members, after they voted to introduce the mixed-use ordinance, for “rolling your sleeves up and diving into the city’s zoning to take what I would call a proactive approach for the future of our city.

“We have a lot of different pockets of zoning in the city, some developed [and] some undeveloped,” he said.

Martin cited land near the I-95 exchange as “one of the more famously undeveloped” properties. He said it was zoned for mixed-office use more than a decade ago and has a “weird, funky formula” with some portions set aside for office space, others for retail space and more for open space.

“A lot of office space in Harford County seems to be sitting lately and not moving,” Martin said.

The mayor said he has tasked his administration, the City Council, planning staff, the economic development and tourism advisory boards with figuring out potential ways to rezone and use the I-95 property.

Martin suggested either residential development or business or tourism-related agriculture.

Shane Grimm, the city’s deputy planning director, also thanked council members for their support of the zoning legislation.

“I think that will go a long way in helping us to promote the infill lots around town we’ve had people come in and speak to us about,” he said of the parking ordinance.

People have expressed interest in the properties but have not been willing to move ahead with development if they must deal with the costly and time-consuming process of seeking Board of Appeals approval to build without fulfilling the off-street parking requirements, according to Grimm.

He also thanked the city’s Planning Commission and internal planning committee for their work on mixed-use development legislation.

“I think it really puts us in a new direction in the city and gives us opportunities and tools to really improve — incentivize improvement along the Route 40 corridor,” Grimm said. “I think that will be a great thing for our city.”

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