Annapolis Lays Out Facts On 110 Compromise Street

| July 10, 2013
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The City of Annapolis’ Planning and Zoning Department released the following fact sheet in an attempt to clarify the hyperbole that has surrounded the possible redevelopment of 110 Compromise Street.

In order to address the conflicting information being aired regarding the Master Plan and rezoning efforts for the Compromise Street properties, the Department of Planning and Zoning has compiled the following clarifications with respect to the City Dock Master Plan and Ordinance O-7-13 concerning rezoning of 110 Compromise Street and adjacent city-owned properties specifically, and City Dock in general.

FawcettsWater

Process and Timing

Since 1986 over 20 studies relating to some aspect of City Dock have been conducted.

Three years ago, the City Council—acting on behalf of the recommendations in the Annapolis Comprehensive Plan—authorized the establishment of a City Dock Advisory Committee (CDAC).  The charge of this Committee was to analyze City Dock and make recommendations to the City Council.  CDAC began its work in the fall of 2010.  It was composed of 26 citizens, several of whom conduct businesses or own property in the City Dock area.  The CDAC met 22 times; all meetings were open to the public; over 100 different members of the public, including business and property owners, attended these meetings.  Two public workshops were held in the downtown recreation center.  The workshop on June 28, 2012 was designed to elicit ideas for the redevelopment and enhancement; and the September 27, 2012 workshop graphically presented these ideas as a unified plan and took additional public comments on this plan.  There were additional public presentations made to the City Council, the Planning Commission, and the Historic Preservation Commission.  Letters were given to all business in the City Dock study area inviting them to involve themselves and to present to the CDAC.  Several business owners and associations made presentations.  In addition, the consultant to the Master Plan personally met with many business owners and other stakeholders.  Finally, significant information was published in the The Capital.

The CDAC process took over two years.

The City Dock Master Plan is a comprehensive effort.  It is a sector study similar to other sector and functional studies that have been undertaken for specific areas in the City—including, for example, the comprehensive analysis of the maritime zoning districts.  In most instances, zoning ordinances designed to implement the plan were submitted in conjunction with the sector studies for concurrent review and approval.  This is the same process now underway for the City Dock Master Plan—the plan and implementing ordinances tracking together for public hearing at the City Council.  Three properties—110 Compromise Street and adjacent City properties on Compromise Street, and two areas on Dock Street—were identified for redevelopment in the plan.  Moving to the City Council, it was decided to act on the Master Plan and implementing ordinances in two phases with the Compromise Street properties being Phase I.

Much of the confusion surrounding the current rezoning proposal stems from the specific development proposal presented for the Compromise Street properties and a tendency to conflate the planning process with the development process.  These are two separate and distinct processes that will be reviewed and acted upon separately and by separate bodies.  The City Council is responsible for review and action on the Master Plan and zoning; the Historic Preservation Commission and Planning Commission are responsible for the review and action on the development proposal.

Because the development proposal is contingent upon the zoning recommendation in the Master Plan, it has been alleged that the development proposal is driving the rezoning when, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.  The new zone (with its mixed use and open space subdistricts) that is being considered was written at the beginning of this year.

In short, the City has been working on the Compromise Street rezoning legislation since before the current specific development proposal arose.  It is the norm for rezoning legislation to accompany comprehensive planning and sector studies.

The rezoning ordinance, O-7-13, currently before the City Council achieves two goals of the Master Plan.  One, it provides for mixed use rather than only “maritime” use on Compromise Street as recommended in the City Dock Master Plan and the Comprehensive Plan.  Two, it addresses only the 110 Compromise Street property with respect to height, viewsheds, and the like.  The other potential redevelopment properties are unaffected by O-7-13.

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Zoning Consequences for Other Maritime Zoned Properties

The rezoning contemplated with O-7-13 is comprehensive, not piecemeal.  It is comprehensive because it results from the recommendations of a comprehensive analysis undertaken at the behest of the City Council based on a recommendation of the Annapolis Comprehensive Plan, and encompasses a number of parcels of land.   (A piecemeal rezoning, or “spot zoning,” is based on a request by an individual property owner to rezone a specific parcel outside of such a comprehensive analysis.  A piecemeal rezoning is subject to specific findings not required of a comprehensive rezoning—irrespective of the size or ownership of the parcels being considered.)  This is key to understanding that there is no direct line between rezoning a parcel on Compromise Street and rezoning maritime properties on Spa or Back Creeks.

Ordinance O-7-13 will not allow Planned Developments in existing Maritime zoning districts.

The Maritime Zoning, which has protected our maritime industry, will not be affected by a rezoning of City Dock.  The only precedent that adoption of O-7-13 will set is that if there are to be changes on other maritime zones they can only be accomplished through a comprehensive effort.

The City’s Maritime Advisory Board (MAB) has recognized the need to evaluate the Maritime Zones because they were implemented over 20 years ago (based on a comprehensive analysis) and have not been revisited since.  The Planning Department has offered to lead or assist in this effort when resources are available.

City-owned Land:

The Compromise Street zoning ordinance contemplates a public-private partnership that would in all likelihood entail an exchange of land between the City and a private land-owner.  The City Dock plan contemplates a future in which the City maintains control of the Donner lot and gains control of the waterfront using the Newman Street lot in an exchange.  The resulting promenade will be over twice the size of the current boardwalk at Compromise Street and will be public space.  (Currently the boardwalk is owned by the property owner(s) of 110 Compromise Street and they are not required to provide public access—similar to the Fleet Reserve Club next door.   A City-owned public promenade would be constructed in accord with the goals of public access and flood protection recommendation as outlined in the Master Plan.  The plan also recommends a wider sidewalk along Compromise Street to be obtained.

Any land exchange would have to be ratified by the City Council upon a determination that there is a compelling public benefit in such an exchange.

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Historic Preservation Issues, Including Height:

Any building in the Historic District, which includes 110 Compromise Street, must be reviewed and approved by the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC).  This does not change under O-7-13.  In addition, this ordinance requires that all proposed buildings within the City Dock zone also must be reviewed by the Planning Commission.  The authority of these commissions is broad, and public hearings are required before both Commissions.

Ordinance O-7-13 contains two provisions that will affect height: the provision related to how height is measured will be in effect district-wide; the provision to change the height district for the Compromise Street properties will affect only the Compromise Street properties.

How Height Is Measured

Under the current code height is measured at the front of the building at grade.  Under O-7-13 building height will be measured either from the front of the building at grade or from the base flood elevation—whichever is higher.

First, base flood level height.

Federal law under FEMA and the City Building Code require that all construction within the flood plain must be elevated above a 100 year flood level.  Most properties along Ego Alley and Dock Street are four to five feet below base flood elevation.  Therefore, in a new or redeveloped building the first floor is required to be elevated approximately four feet above existing grade.  All properties in the Historic District are governed by height districts.  In the Ego Alley/Dock Street the height district sets a maximum of 22 feet to the cornice line and 32 feet to the top of the roof.  This contemplates a two-story building up to the roof and a potential one-half story under the roof.  If a proposed building must comply with both the flood protection level and with the height limit, the building will lose a floor because the first four/five feet of height is not useable under code.  Therefore, the rezoning ordinance requires that all new buildings be measured from the flood protection level. This is common sense.  To do otherwise would deprive a property owner of rights originally conferred under the height districts.  Of course, if a building is not in the flood protection area, height will continue to be measured from grade.

Second, height limits.

The Historic District imposes three distinct height limitation zones.  Each height district contains two height measurements—height to cornice which is the height of the front wall to the roof, and height to ridgeline which is the height to the top of the roof based on a roof line that slopes at a 45 degree angle from the front building wall.  110 Compromise Street is in Height District 1, the lowest of three, which allows 22 feet to the cornice and 32 feet to the ridgeline.  Ordinance O-7-13 proposes moving this property into Height District 2 allowing a cornice height of 28 feet and a ridgeline height of 38 feet—six feet higher than now permitted.  This would still allow only a 2-and-a-half story building.

In the current debate surrounding the Master Plan and O-7-13 the argument is made that this rezoning will permit a building that is ten feet higher than now permitted.  But when broken down, this ten feet comes from:

–Four to five feet to raise the first floor out of the base flood elevation

–Six feet of new height from the change to Height District 2

Accepting that it is only reasonable to exempt the height above base flood elevation from the overall height, buildings in Height District 1 would have a net height of 26 feet to the cornice and 36 feet to the ridgeline and buildings in Height District 2 would have a cornice height of 32 and a ridgeline of 42—still a net difference of six feet.

It is important to note that through its review, the Historic Preservation Commission can impose a building height of less than that required under the Height District based on other considerations such as viewsheds and sight lines, impact on surrounding properties and impacts on the district’s cultural resources.

For comparison purposes, the Marriott Hotel is 61 feet to the cornice.  The Museum Store building is approximately 32 feet to the ridge line.  Historically, this parcel has had buildings of up to four stories.

The height limits of the parcels on Dock Street are unaffected unless they were to be redeveloped, in which case the new base flood elevation would kick in.  The Master Plan is clear that any new construction there should not impinge negatively on the Prince Georges Street properties, must not negatively affect views or cultural resources, and must fit with the heights and rhythms of surrounding properties.

FawcettSitePlanOther Considerations

View corridors.

Ordinance O-7-13 requires that viewshed (or view corridor) analyses be conducted at the expense of the applicant.  Any new buildings, unlike the current old Fawcett’s building, will be set back considerably more from the water and from the street than is required under existing zoning.  It will open up views from Main Street, Compromise Street, and the water which have not been available for decades.  The HPC is requiring a comprehensive view shed analysis for any development on this site.

Bulk

The bulk, or size, of a building is determined by the zoning restrictions of height and setbacks.  In the case of Compromise Street we have discussed the height but not other requirements specifically setbacks.  Under the current WMC zoning there are no setbacks other than the requirement for a 15 foot waterside promenade.  Under O-7-13 the key requirements are for a twenty-foot setback from the curb to the building and 45 feet from the water to the building.

Billboards

There is an amendment to the sign code to eliminate billboards.  O-7-13 would allow the owner of a billboard seven years to amortize the cost of the billboard at which time it would be required to be removed.  This is fairly standard practice nationally as it gives the owner of the billboard time to recoup costs.  O-7-13 allows an additional year upon finding that the seven-year period did not provide adequate time.

Parking:

The zoning amendment contemplates the loss of the Newman Street parking lot but not necessarily the loss of the Donner lot.  The Donner lot can become one of three things:  Remain solely a parking lot; become solely a pedestrian plaza (as shown in the plan); or become a flexible use space designed to accommodate a variety of uses depending on the need.  O-7-13 does contain the same parking requirement as the adjacent C2, Conservation Business zone.  That is, buildings over 20,000 square feet must provide parking.

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  • Nicholas Zahn

    Now that the city has actually shown how crazy Save Annapolis was, no one wants to comment?