OPINION: Hey Annapolis…Congratulations on keeping your head in the sand

| May 11, 2017
Rams Head

EDIT:  Since publishing, I learned that Tsunami falls just outside of the legal boundaries for the Arts & Entertainment District and have made the correction.

I also received a copy of the decision from Judge McKenna (PDF/DropBox link).  In it, he states that the City Code allowing the HPC discretion for “other factors” as they “deem pertinent” to be unconstitutional, invalid, and unenforceable.


A heartfelt (and thoroughly tongue-in cheek) congratulations to the City of Annapolis and their Historic Preservation Commission for firmly planting their heads (and I am trying to be nice here) ….. in the sand.

For crying out loud people, it is only paint!

The last time I looked there was no exterior paint from the 1600s on the facades of ANY building in Annapolis. Lisa Craig, the City’s Chief of Historic Preservation has gone on record saying that the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC), led by Alderman Joe Budge’s wife, Sharon Kennedy (conflict of interest much there?) does NOT regulate paint.  If they did, perhaps the facade of Mission Escape Rooms (an outstanding new business by the way and a great addition to Annapolis) might have felt some pushback.  What about Chez Ami, a B&B owned by  Ward One Resident’s Association’s President and the mural painted on their exterior wall? What about the exterior wall of Hats in the Belfry?  So, if the issue could not paint, nor murals…what is it?

Maybe it is the stranglehold that some residents of Ward 1 have on the HPC. Many in Ward 1 have this vision of Annapolis that simply does not exist–nor has it ever. To paraphrase a friend of mine, they have this utopian vision of an Annapolis that, quite honestly, never was. They have invented this mythical village on the banks of the Severn River where there is parking a plenty for them, yet no concern for the visitors; no tourists to get in their way, yet plenty of tourists to spend the money to keep their taxes low,; no wires or cables to block their views; bars and restaurants for them to eat and drink, yet those same bars and restaurants that will close when the residents decide they want to go to bed or to have some quiet time. And depending on the direction of the wind, any number of other “demands” can come into play. We don’t want fast food, but Mission BBQ is ok. If nothing else, Ward 1 is living, breathing conundrum of double standards.

So, the gist of this argument is that some folk’s panties are in a twist and they do not like the mural. I get that. There is an awful lot of art that I do not like–hey, this mural is not my favorite either. However, the concept of it is!

Tsunami mural

I wonder if this court case and conversation would be necessary if Jeff Huntington (a world renowned artist who happens to live here and painted the mural) had painted a scene with a Chesapeake Bay Retriever and a wealthy white guy in Sperry’s and a Henri Lloyd jacket standing on the deck of his 50′ Benetau looking toward the Bay Bridge? Don’t kid yourself, it would have been fine.

Art is good for the city.  Look at what the Maryland State Arts Council has to say:

Authority

Maryland State Arts Council is an agency of the State of Maryland under the authority of the Department of Commerce, Division of Tourism, Film and the Arts

Larry Hogan, Governor | Boyd K. Rutherford, Lieutenant Governor
Mike Gill, Secretary | Benjamin Wu, Deputy Secretary
Liz Fitzsimmons, Executive Director, Division of Tourism, Film and the Arts

Mission Statement and Goals

The mission of MSAC is to encourage and invest in the advancement of the arts for the people of our state. The goals of the Council are to support artists and arts organizations in their pursuit of artistic excellence, to ensure the accessibility of the arts to all citizens and to promote statewide awareness of arts resources and opportunities.

The MSAC’s programs are aimed at benefiting all Maryland residents regardless of political or religious opinion or affiliation, marital status, race, color, creed, age, national origin, sex or sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, or geographic location within the State.

 A 2014 study showed that these arts and entertainment districts are actually helping to grow the local economies across the state. So why woudl the HPC and the City of Annapolis be against that?  Something is not adding up here. I might suggest that the mural has caused more people to pause and look around on West Street; thereby increasing the business to the local shopkeepers!
And to be fair, the HPC (and the Judge) said that Tsunami could retroactively apply for the permit. And it may be approved. But the owners have decided that the issue is not the permit itself, however the precedent that is being set that the City appears to be regulating art! Not paint, not alterations…but art. Again, there is a mural at the foot of Main Street, there is one on Fleet Street, and of course, we can never omit the historically accurate and oh-so-appealing billboard on Dock Street. Some have suggested that we could not have murals like this on all buildings. I agree. Not all buildings are historically insignificant. I might make the argument that murals would improve the look of many buildings in Annapolis. And also to be fair, if a mural was proposed for the facades of historically significant buildings–then absolutely the HPC needs to be involved. But last time I checked, there was no plaque on the front of Tsunami designating it as such!
I am not sure what the owners of Tsunami plan to do about the ruling. Can they continue to fight City Hall? The City makes doing business in town difficult at best. How much money are the owners willing to spend to defend a little bit of paint on the front of their building?
As to the HPC, are there not any bigger fish to fry? Have they taken a look at the condition of the non-tax-paying state office buildings and their peeling paint? Maybe the City could do something to attract more businesses that can sustain the environment that has been created.

Snyders (l) has been vacant since 2015.
Captain’s Club Apparel (r) opened in 2016, closed in 2017.
Just two of the vacancies on Main Street.

I am not sure how this happened, but congratulations HPC and the City of Annapolis.  And with your head in the sand, your ass does look big.

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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.