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Annapolis City Council sorta, kinda, but not really moves ahead on the Market House

| January 09, 2018, 06:48 AM


Once again, the Annapolis City Council did not take much action on the Market House. Although they took some. And they took it without the assistance of Mayor Buckley who recused himself from the discussion and vote due to his relationship with the principal of the New Market proposal.

As was expected, the majority of the Council meeting last night was dedicated to the Market House with a dozen or so people testifying that the City needed to move forward and make the decision. Most were in favor of the New Market proposal. However, local residents Babe Feldman and Bill Kardash made some compelling arguments for applying the  brakes–notably that the City was putting the cart before the horse in terms of the lease.  The intent was to select a Market House tenant and allow them to proceed with the permits and renovations while the City and the tenant worked out the details of the lease. At one point, Feldman asked the council if they’d sign over their homes to him with a promise that they’d figure out a selling price down the road. Kardash suggested that the proposed rental rates were against City Code and and essentially a 75% subsidy giving them an unfair advantage over other businesses it the area that pay full rent and are responsible for the maintenance, upkeep, and taxes (via that rent) on their buildings.

There were two bills up for vote which were added at the last minute and not available online concerning the Market House which made following this procedure very confusing. One was to select a winning proposal. The other was to move forward and allow the winner to begin the process of applying for permits, etc. The Council seemed to want to have the market House re-opened in time for the return of the tourists in the summer.

NOTE: This part of the meeting was very confusing since the ordinances were not made public. We will be reviewing the tape once available and will correct as needed. See Alderman Savidge’s comments below.

Ward 7 Alderman Rob Savidge called for a vote approving Annapolis Oyster Company (the current operator) as the selected proposal and then proceeded to vote against that. That motion was defeated 3-5 with Aldermen Paone, Pindell-Charles, and Finlayson in favor.  This effectively handed the project to New Market.

The second vote was not so easy. This was a a vote to move ahead with the project. Alderman Paone was very vocal about having the City’s financial interests protected in prior to proceeding. Ultimately, the bill was called to a vote and failed 4-4 with the returning members of the council voting against and the newer members voting to move ahead. After some more discussion, the Council moved to re-consider their vote (a do-over of sorts) on this issue and the the motion to reconsider also failed so the original 4-4 vote remained.

So, at the end of the night, we knew that New Market would be the new operator of the Market House. However, the terms of the deal (including the lease) will have to pass through committees and the Council again prior to moving forward certainly delaying any modifications or construction for several months. With the scepter of a divided council and a 75% subsidy in question, it is anyone’s guess if New Market will accept whatever terms emerge from the committee and Council. And in the interim, now that Annapolis Oyster Company has been eliminated, will they be agreeable to a month-to-month lease or will they simply walk away.  The Principal of Annapolis Oyster Company, Harvey Blonder, has indicated that he is not interested in a month-to-month lease and will vacate the premises.

All of this led to some fireworks later in the meeting. Alderwoman Pindell-Charles spoke at length about the lack of communication between the “old” and “new” Council members. Pindell-Charles at one point said that if this was an indication of how the next four years were going to play out, “we’re in big trouble.”

UPDATE:  Alderman Rob Savidge contacted us this morning to clarify/correct this article. The entire process was confusing and we will be re-watching the proceedings when the City makes them available. Below are Alderman Savidge’s comments:

Your article on the market house vote last night has some inaccuracies and is a bit confusing. Check our the Capital’s new article, which clears it up. I did make motion for AOC, but I also did so for NM (which you didn’t mention). The votes late in the night were on the two competing lease ordinances, separate from the motions made earlier to simply make a selection. Those lease ordinances were always necessary once the lease negotiation process was completed. Also, Kardash’s numbers were not accurate. To get an accurate comparison of cost per square foot you need to look at usable non public space. City’s calculations were around $23 per square foot, higher than Kardash’s. But the most accurate number is actually higher than that.

Oh, and it was also confusing what you said about second vote. The votes on the ordinances at the end were votes to get them accepted on first reader. First (NM) passed. Second (AOC) failed. The second is what Finlayson tried to reconsider once she realized what the newly elected folks did (ie voted down the second so only first could live).

Severn Bank


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About the Author - John Frenaye

John is the publisher and editor of Eye On Annapolis. As a resident and business owner in Anne Arundel County for nearly 25 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

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