Opponents of the controversial Crystal Spring community have largely been focused on creating emotional arguments to stop the development which have largely fallen on deaf ears. Save the trees. Save the animals. Think of the kids. Think of the traffic. Any time an accident occurs in the City, one of the opponents will chime in with a comment about either how it is the fault of Crystal Spring or how much worse it would have been because of Crystal Spring. Their coalition is led by a long-since retired State Senator who (ironically enough) lives on property that disturbed the forest, disrupted the habitats, increased school capacity, etc. The property owner does have the right to develop the property and the opposition is essentially saying “no development” which is certainly not in their authority. They are trying to hold Annapolis Mayor Michael Pantelides to a campaign promise he made while trying to get elected where he said (without any hesitancy) that if elected he would stop the development. Likely, that statement swayed the 50 some odd voted it took for him to defeat incumbent Josh Cohen.
Personally, I have long felt that the non-emotional issues could be handled–traffic, school overcrowding, size. I have felt (and still do) that this mixed use community would be an asset to the City and particularly in the increasingly blighted (and oft ignored by the City) Forest Drive corridor. But my opinion or theirs may be moot due to the property owner not complying with an Annexation Agreement and the City not complying with thier own laws.
Crystal Spring Not Connected To The City Water And Sewer
When the property was annexed into the City in November 2005, there was a stipulation that it should be connected to City water and sewer within one year. It specified that any existing dwellings or structures should be connected as well. This was never done. There is a provision for extensions up to 10 years. However, the property owner has never submitted a request for the extension, nor has the City issued one administratively. This is a breach of the Annexation Agreement.
A more interesting tidbit from the Annexation Agreement is that they assigned the property to be in Ward 7 which is not contiguous to the property. It had been assumed that Crystal Spring would have been in Ward 5.
Crystal Spring Should Be Halted Because Of Existing Adequate Public Facilities Regulations
At the present time, a piece of legislation has stalled in the Council that would require the City to account for school capacity when they are approving residential developments. Currently the law provides for consideration of water, sewer, police, fire, etc.
But according to recent budget information, the City is already in violation of their own ordinance with their under-staffed police department
Annapolis Code 22.14.040 says “The ratio of police officers authorized in the current City budget to City residents shall not be less than 3.2 officers per every one thousand City residents.” Further, the code also states that there will no exemptions (22.14.030).
With a 2014 Census Estimated population of 38,846 residents we should have a police force of 124 police officers. At a recent meeting in Eastport, Police Chief Pristoop said they had 109 officers currently. The new budget calls for 114. Even with the increased budget for next year, the police force falls 8% short of the number mandated by the City Code.
If the City follows its own laws, based on this, all residential development should be halted or the City needs to pony up a few dozen more police officers to comply.
Where this goes from here is anyone’s guess. I am not sure of the legal ramifications of being in default of the Annexation Agreement. The property is a valuable parcel and will eventually be developed. But, with an election in the next few years and a Mayor who vowed to stop the development…this may be just what he needs to secure re-election.