Annapolis Passes Controversial City Dock Plan

| October 29, 2013
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Screenshot 2013-10-29 08.19.57In a marathon meeting that lasted until after 3:00am. The Annapolis City Council passed the controversial City Dock Master Plan which paves the way for upgrades and development in the general area of City Dock.

The legislation passed just after midnight by a vote of 8-1 with Ward 2 Alderman Fred Paone the only nay vote.  The plan, however, was not the plan presented by a citizen’s committee earlier this year. Alderman Joe Budge (Ward 1) submitted several amendments to the plan to address many of the concerns of the downtown residents.  Two of the most contentious inclusions in the original plan were regarding building height and the conversion of Memorial Circle to a “T” configured intersection. Budge tried to set a specific height limit, but that was voted down for a more “vague” term which allows the Historic Preservation Commission and Planning and Zoning a little bit of leeway when approving construction projects.  Budge’s wife is the Chairman of the HPC and this relationship has been a sticking point in the current election as a conflict of interest because Budge represents the area that his wife directs via the HPC.

This plan was strongly supported by Mayor Cohen and had it not passed, all of the work that citizens had put into the project over the past three years would have been for naught. This was the last council meeting of this session, prior to the election. Per City Code, unresolved legislation dies when the session ends.

One of the sticking points throughout the approval process was that the “plan” was not specific enough in terms of various studies to support it. The amendments also included the requirement for several studies to be performed prior to parts moving forward–parking, economic impact, etc.

Aside from the visual aspects of the plan, which ultimately provides for more green space at City Dock, the plan includes major public works projects including flood mitigation and a long-overdue parking garage replacement.

The passage also paves the way for a zoning change for the controversial 110 Compromise Street (the former Fawcett’s Building). Concurrent with the CDMP, Mayor Cohen sought to revise the zoning at 110 Compromise to allow for the construction of a mixed use building along the waterfront. Opponents challenged that it was spot zoning and that the proposed height was too high. The proposed developer proposed an additional 4′ in height. This development will be a long-awaited solution to the eyesore that Fawcett’s has become. In the proposed development, the new owners will swap waterfront land (along Ego Alley) for a 28 spot land-locked parking lot owned by the City. In addition, they will create a 70+ space underground garage. The net effect will be an increase in parking in that area of City Dock. However, upon the request of the developer’s attorney, this zoning legislation was rescinded and will be taken up with the next council in January. With few changes expected in the makeup of the council, this legislation likely will sail through the process, supported by the CDMP.  This will end a nearly 5-year fight for re-zoning by building owners Terry Terhorst and Greg Kauffmann. The two have been actively trying to sell the building to a maritime interest to retain the zoning, however, there has been little interest as the maritime industry in Annapolis has declined and changed since the building was operated as a chandlery.

When news of the Mayor’s support of the CDMP and the 110 Compromise Street project came to light, Crownsville resident and boat show owner, Ed Hartman, funded an opposition group called Save Annapolis. Ironically, many of the members of Save Annapolis, including Hartman’s daughter and Watermark Tours owner, Debbie Gosselien, had a leading role in producing the City Dock plan that they now opposed. The Save Annapolis group was made up of many groups, organizations, and individuals–many very tightly associated with Hartman.  Ultimately, the group (Hartman) produced a viable Democratic challenger to the Mayor in Bevin Buchheister who lost to the Mayor in the September primary election. The situation degenerated to the point where Hartman claims he was forced to sell the boat shows because Mayor Cohen refused to consider a long-term lease for the shows with Hartman at the helm.  While Hartman’s home in Crownsville is for sale and he has stated he will retire in Florida; many close to the situation believe that since the sale of the boat show has not been completed, that Hartman will retain ownership now that the lease issues are resolved.

While it had been long expected that the Mayor had the votes necessary to pass the legislation, the 8-1 vote was a bit of a surprise. Aldermen Budge and Arnett initially seemed to be very much against it; but ultimately supported the plan with most of Alderman Budge’s changes intact. Alderman Paone prefaced his vote and explained to the council (and crowd of 1) why he planned to vote against it. He said that the plan was not “my vision” of City Dock.

To view the adopted and annotated plan, please click here.

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About the Author ()

John is the publisher and editor of Eye On Annapolis. As a resident and business owner in Anne Arundel County for more than 15 years, he realized that there was something missing in terms of community news--and Eye On Annapolis was born in late spring 2009.John's background is in the travel industry as a business owner, industry speaker, and travel writer. In terms of blogging and social media, he cut his teeth with MSNBC.com.

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