Restaurant plan sparks criticism Developer would build near old lighthouse in Havre de Grace

November 30, 1998|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

Even as Havre de Grace officials work to make the city a magnet for tourism, a proposed waterfront restaurant is being criticized as too close to one of the oldest functioning lighthouses in the country.

The two-story restaurant -- which would seat about 265 and be slightly more than 10,000 square feet -- would be built adjacent to the more-than-200-year-old Concord Point Lighthouse.

But opponents want the city to buy the land -- at a cost of $1 million -- and maintain it as open space.

"It's a perfect location for a restaurant," said Georg Ann Pabst, a member of Friends of Concord Point, which opposes the restaurant. "It's also the perfect place for peace and tranquillity in this city."

The battle over the proposed restaurant occurs as Havre de Grace promotes itself as an ideal tourism spot. Banking on its location overlooking the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay, the city has spent more than $1 million on a half-mile promenade that faces the water.

City officials also have hired an economic development coordinator. A street-scape project is being planned for downtown, and ground will be broken tomorrow for a maritime museum next to the city's famed Decoy Museum.

"Right now, as our city is growing, tourism has become very important," Havre de Grace Mayor Philip J. Barker said. "Havre de Grace has become a destination spot, and tourism brings more dollars into the community."

The proposed restaurant site, which is zoned for residential and business use, is near the promenade and occupied by three bungalows, which will be demolished. The developers have requested a variance because the zoning would allow less parking than the restaurant needs.

Mary Lynn Snyder, one of the members of Conquest Point Limited Partnership, said the group has been planning the restaurant since it purchased the land for $385,000 in 1985.

"Everyone has always known we planned to put a restaurant there," said Snyder, whose company purchased almost 2 acres and then sold part of it to the state for the promenade. "If we had [built] before people decided it was their domain, it would have been fine. For me, it's a private-property issue, but for [the opponents] it's an issue of their coveting the land."

Last week, city manager Mary Ann Lisanti suggested that the developers build on city-owned property between the Decoy Museum and the planned maritime museum. That, she said, would provide enough parking and would benefit the museums with more pedestrian traffic.

"We believe it is the best solution and would best meet everyone's needs," Lisanti said. "We like the small-town feel here, and we don't want to ruin it for the sake of tourism. The city has taken a pro-active stance and said that it is our job to properly blend the two."

City officials are expected to present their proposal to developers soon.

Pub Date: 11/30/98

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