Save Annapolis Responds To City’s Fact Sheet

| July 16, 2013
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save annapolisSave Annapolis has taken issue with the fact sheet offered by the City of Annapolis PLanning and Zoning Department.  Below is their point by point response to the original article published here.

Response by Save Annapolis to the Annapolis Planning and Zoning Department City Dock Fact Sheet of 7/9/13 published in Eye of Annapolis

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

Response— The vast majority of these studies were completed more than ten years ago.

Some aspect of the City Dock area may have been touched on in other studies, but these studies are outdated and/or not comprehensive. The parking study referred to by the City was conducted on one weekday and one weekend in the fall.  The data is incomplete and some of the data used was flawed.  The City should not be proposing to eliminate some 200 parking spaces at City Dock based on that study.  Planning requires more concrete data so businesses and policymakers can predict the likely economic impact such decisions will have.

Currently the City lacks the adequate information it needs to make informed decisions on zoning and development for the City Dock.

“The CDAC process took over two years.”

Response- The work of City Dock Advisory Council (CDAC) was incomplete. The CDAC never came to consensus on the plan and never voted to support the recommendations. Before the CDAC members could prepare their own recommendations, the City Dock plan was taken over by City-paid consultants. The current City Dock Master Plan was crafted by the Mayor’s consultants.

It is worth noting that the CDAC did not meet for 5 months once the City engaged its consultants. CDAC generally met only on a monthly basis.  To contrast, the Citizen’s Committee to Review Alcohol Beverage Laws met on a weekly basis for 7 months (coincidentally, 22 times), built consensus among its members, and in the end, produced a 110-page document with step-by-step instructions for the City Council to move forward.

“The City Dock Master Plan is a comprehensive effort…”

Response- This is misleading and inaccurate. A thorough reading of this very short plan reveals it to be little more than a potential vision for the city dock area:

  • There is no comprehensive parking study for the downtown to inform a decision to remove most parking from the city dock area.
  • There is no economic study of the impact of proposed new development on the City’s existing businesses and taxpayers, or the City’s bottom line.
  • There is no preservation analysis of the impact of the flood plane [sic] on historic resources at the City Dock.
  • There is no long-term solution considered for the prevention of inundation of the City Dock by water in the long term.
  • There is no adequate study to inform the decision to replace Veteran’s Memorial Circle with a T-intersection and 3 to 5 traffic lights, and the impact of that decision on the 10,000 vehicles which transit through downtown daily.

The West Annapolis Sector Study located on the City’s website is an example of the process we propose the city follow in re-developing the City Dock. The City must prepare a complete City Dock Sector Study to determine what is appropriate for the City Dock.

Best practices and common sense dictate that zoning recommendations should come after a Sector Study, which comes after a Comprehensive Plan.  We have a 2009 Comprehensive Plan but it is disingenuous to call the City Dock Master Plan a sector study—It is not. Any quick comparison of these two documents will allay any doubts by the reader.

“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.”

Response- The rush to pass a 30-page ordinance that will set up the structure for the City Dock Area with new uses and new zoning is being driven by the development proposal for the 110 Compromise St by the Developer. The Developer has time constraints that has prompted the City of Annapolis to introduce the 30-page ordinance, changing 20 code sections before the plan for the City Dock has been approved by the CDAC or the City Council and before an adequate Sector Study has even begun much less been completed.

The fact sheet refers to the 61-foot height of the Marriott Hotel. It was this very building that led the effort to establish a height and bulk ordinance for the historic district. There has been no change to the 1967 ordinance that only applies to the Annapolis Landmark Historic District and was established by a survey of existing buildings with 3 different height zones.

” 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.”

Response- Looking at the timing of the ordinance, the time constraints of the Developer, city comments, and the urgency of the extraordinary effort by the Mayor to work out a deal between the developer and Save Annapolis coalition members, it is clear that the rezoning is being driven by the needs of the developer.

“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, view sheds, and the like.  The other potential redevelopment properties are unaffected by O-7-13.

Response- Save Annapolis believes that scale and size of redevelopment needs to protect the existing historical fabric and as the Master Plan states “fit harmoniously with the historic residential character.”

Save Annapolis also urges the City Council to consider the entire City Dock area before making any changes to historic and/or maritime zoning. Handling this in a piecemeal fashion is putting the cart before the horse and has potential unintended consequences for the entire City Dock area, and potentially the whole City.

“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.”

Response-Comprehensive zoning is not comprehensive when one parcel (Fawcett site) and two smaller adjacent parcels (Donner lot and Newman lot) are the only properties rezoned.

“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.”

Response- As soon as the traditional maritime zoning is replaced by much more expansive uses, it is only reasonable to assume that there may be attempts by other developers to mimic the “maritime lite” zone established by the proposed ordinance. The same is true for other property owners who may want to change the height and bulk restrictions in their areas.

“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.”

Response- This differs from reports that the developer may acquire these lots from the City and keep the riparian rights of the “swapped” land for himself. Certainly these two lots are proposed to be rezoned with the main Fawcett site. In addition, the developer’s published design appears to incorporate one of the lots (Newman) entirely into the building site. What is the cost of this land swap to the taxpayers? How can a “flex lot” (Donner) be counted on for parking? What is the public benefit? Who will control and benefit from the riparian rights of the waterfront along all of the parcels?

The CDAC suggested that the Newman lot be used for green space and that use is not designated in this plan – it becomes part of redevelopment.

“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.”

Response-The ordinance allows parking on this flood zone if it is screened from public view. We know of no studies that show how the proposed new height measurement will impact existing buildings. It is not necessarily common sense to let owners go one floor higher. These building owners will presumably gain on site parking. Also the allegation that the Fawcetts proposed development is two and one half stories is contradicted by the publication of the design [that] appears to be a three story building not two and a half stories. What is a half story used for?

“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.”

Response- Under this new “maritime lite” zone and changes to height and bulk and other land use regulations, why would owners not want to redevelop their properties or seek to tear down historic structures and replace them with taller, wider buildings with much expanded uses. This also shows the breadth of the new ordinance that can include existing parcels under these zoning changes.

Save Annapolis recommends that the City Council oppose O-7-13 and apply the guiding principles proposed by the City Dock Advisory Committee:

  • Gradual Improvement with Emphasis on Historical Layout, Scale, Vistas
  • High Quality Walkable Public Open Spaces
  • Toward Balance in Transportation on City Dock, including the ability of traffic to get to and through downtown
  • Economic Growth and Viability
  • Greening and Sustainability
  • Public Art

Save Annapolis believes that the City is putting the cart before the horse and that much more in-depth work needs to be done, including a detailed, comprehensive parking study.

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