Workforce housing update
I first wanted to provide an update on O-40-22 (workforce housing), the ordinance that would allow density akin to apartment-hotels in single family residential districts throughout the City. I’ve documented my concerns here previously, and you can find my comments in the paper here. There was considerable public testimony on O-40-22, but what’s clear is that consensus has not been established on this legislation and at least as of now, there are not enough votes for it to pass (though there is only a 1-vote margin). However, the co-sponsors have not pulled the legislation and are instead trying to amend it. As I alluded to in the paper, I do not think this is legislation that can be saved. The fundamental flaw is that it should be a part of our comprehensive planning process, which is our method of building consensus in the community around our housing needs. In order to go through that process, this legislation needs to be withdrawn and be made a part of that discussion. Similarly, my other major concern about adequate public facilities cannot simply be amended into this legislation. Despite what many supporters said during their testimony, the housing density increase proposed in O-40-22 would NOT have to go through our adequate public facilities laws, unless they are building 11 or more units on one site. I am surprised and disappointed that certain staff, as well as those who served on our affordable housing task force, are perpetuating this misinformation. We have confirmed it in Environmental Matters Committee, with our Planning & Zoning staff, that the proposed housing would NOT have to comply with our adequate public facilities. This is another fundamental flaw that risks concentrating development and density impacts in certain neighborhoods and parts of our City, and I do not think this can be fixed via amendment.
I believe we need to take a consensus based approach to first identify and discuss what our housing goals are as a Council and community. I propose we do so via a work session. Once we identify any goals/targets, we should then utilize the Comprehensive Planning process to recommend policies that would help us achieve those goals. I hope we can also utilize the approach laid out in the 2009 Comprehensive Plan that states we need to take a strategic and targeted approach when adjusting density, while at the same time honoring and respecting neighborhood character. This is precisely what we are attempting to do with R-1-23. This is a Resolution that myself and 4 other co-sponsors are introducing to make it clear these are the steps we want to take and our goal is to establish consensus, not division in our community.
Quiet Waters park expansion thoughts
I’ve received a number of questions about my stance on the proposed use of the Quiet Waters Park expansion, as detailed in the paper by the County executive and our County Councilperson. You can find details of the proposed plans here, as well as hear directly from the Chesapeake Conservancy here.
I support the proposed plans by the County Executive and County Council. Personally, I think this is getting blown way out of proportion. This expansion of our park was pursued by the County and the Chesapeake Conservancy, and the original owners had always stipulated that they wanted their property utilized by the Chesapeake Conservancy. The original idea was for them to utilize the existing home to house their non-profit business. When the original home was damaged by the tornado that made its way through the park, it was determined that Chesapeake Conservancy will need to construct a new building, which will, by the way, be a LEED (green) building. Most of the new construction will be concentrated to the previously developed areas. I’ve also heard from folks that this is an “unprecedented” use of public property. Let’s be clear, there are plenty of precedents for utilizing what will be public property in this manner. In the City, we have given a long-term lease to the Annapolis Maritime Museum to manage the Ellen Moyer Back Creek park. What they have done is retrofit and renovate the existing unused building to house their offices. They are putting an unused public asset to use for a good cause and improving the property at the same time. They are managing this property a lot better than the City ever did. Another example is CRAB, where the City owns that property but is leasing it to CRAB to place their headquarters. A third example would be the Annapolis Children’s museum, where the City actually owns that property. In this case, having the Quiet Waters park expansion be utilized in this fashion, by a non-profit as the original owners envisioned, is desirable to the alternative, which would be a housing development. I have checked the critical area maps and this is an LDA (limited development area) in the Critical area, which means it could have been sold for housing, but instead will be utilized by the public and at the same time house a very reputable and respectable non-profit that helped to seal the land deal. Seems like a win-win to me. To top it off, the County has committed to a no net loss policy of any trees/forests that need to be removed. So at this point, I’d argue we should be looking for ways to support and improve the plans, rather than fighting against the proposal so much.
Here is the area in question (the southeast corner of the park, which was private property).
And the proposed disturbance and tree removals:
Stay healthy and stay safe,
This Monday will be the final public hearing on O-40-22, which is titled “workforce housing”, but in reality is a giveaway to developers that would allow them to build multi-family housing, as dense as “apartment hotels” without any height limit, in the middle of single family housing neighborhoods by right, all the while bypassing our normal democratic process for changing zoning and bypassing our normal adequate public facilities requirements (i.e. requirements that we have adequate schools, roads, police, fire, environmental protection, recreational space, etc). If you need a refresher on this issue, I would point you to my Capital Gazette op-ed on the legislation. But as you can probably tell, while I support workforce housing, this legislation is not good policy. Monday will be your last opportunity to testify on this Ordinance prior to it heading off to our Committees for review. After Committee review, it will head back to the Council for a final vote, probably in February or March. The public hearing will be this Monday night at 7pm, and you will have 3 minutes to speak. You can also submit written testimony at www.annapolis.gov/testimony.
Also at this Monday’s meeting, there will be a public hearing on an Ordinance I have introduced, O-55-22, which is in response to all of the issues we had with the Parkeside Preserve project discharging sediment pollution into Quiet Waters Park. The legislation would establish strong inspection procedures that require inspecting the receiving waters, more frequent inspections on larger sites, documented follow-up to stop repeat offenses, and more.
Stay healthy and stay safe,
Thank you to those who were able to attend this past Monday’s Town Hall meeting. If you missed the meeting, we spent most of it talking about O-40-22, titled Workforce Housing, which would open up all of our zoning districts (except Maritime and industrial) to density akin to apartments, all while bypassing our normal zoning amendment process. The density I’m referring to could be anywhere between 4-6+ units with no restriction on height, placed on any single family lot. I do NOT support this legislation as it is currently written. While we certainly need more below market rate housing (which is what this “workforce” housing would be), whenever we add density, especially at such a drastic level, it needs to be done with a robust public process and we must ensure that it will not impact our neighborhoods with increased traffic, parking woes, school overcrowding, noise, policing impacts, etc. Such a thing should really be done through our zoning amendment process as well as our Comprehensive Planning process, and have to comply with our adequate public facilities code, none of which would be done as currently written.
For me to have any hopes of defeating or amending this, I will need your help. If you can provide in-person testimony on this legislation, the public hearing will be this Monday night at 7pm at City Hall (160 Duke of Gloucester St), and you will have 3 minutes to speak. You can also submit written testimony at www.annapolis.gov/testimony.
Also at this Monday’s meeting, I’ll be introducing O-55-22, which is in response to all of the issues we had with the Parkeside Preserve project discharging sediment pollution into Quiet Waters Park. The legislation would establish strong inspection procedures that require inspecting the receiving waters, more frequent inspections on larger sites, documented follow-up to stop repeat offenses, and more. The public hearing for this legislation will probably be in January.
This Monday I am holding a Town Hall event for Ward 7, from 6:30-8pm at the Eastport Annapolis Neck Library. I would like to get your thoughts on some pending legislation and get your feedback on some of my own legislation that I'm working on, with most of the meeting being dedicated to an open discussion about City/Ward issues you may want to discuss.Read more
Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you were able to spend some quality time with your family.
We don’t have too much action to take at Monday’s Council meeting, but I did want to brief you on some important issues before us.
Apartments and hotels coming to our residential neighborhoods?
First of all is O-40-22, which is titled “workforce housing” but in reality, what it seeks to allow is below market rate (BMR) housing in virtually all of our zoning Districts. I wholeheartedly support encouraging more BMR housing (as I’ve done for years with our Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit program), but the way this legislation would accomplish that goal undermines and seeks to avoid our typical process for what amounts to re-zoning, in that it would allow “apartment hotels” and “multi-family dwelling units” in every single zoning district (except maritime and industrial) in the City without the normal robust community dialog and notification. It does this by making “workforce housing” a permitted use in all districts subject to the standards of the B-4 district, which allows the apartments and hotels I mentioned. What this means is, a developer could buy up a few lots/houses in an R1-R3 residential neighborhood and build a dense multi-family housing complex like an apartment or hotel. I’m not opposed to increasing density in areas where it makes sense, and as long as it’s done in a deliberate way with actual planning following a robust public process. You can look to Ward 7 for ways in which this has been done well, with single family homes next to duplexes, next to town homes, next to apartments. But this legislation, if passed, would take the planning, and much of the public transparency/participation, out of the process, given that I’m not clear on if such re-development would be considered a major site design that would need to go to the Planning Commission for a public hearing, and which the neighbors would need to be notified. We have also been told by our Planning & Zoning Department that this legislation is aimed at encouraging workforce housing with 60+ units, but there doesn’t appear to be any “guard rails” or constraints on this legislation to prevent such dense development from happening on smaller lots in a residential districts. I’ll be working to create such “guard rails” as I dig into this legislation.
I know in my neighborhood, we have an issue with one non-owner occupied short term rental contributing considerable traffic, noise, and general disruption to our quality of life (more on this below). Now imagine if we have to worry about an apartment complex being built in the middle of our neighborhood?! Dense housing should be deliberately planned where the infrastructure can support it and where the neighbors have been consulted. Not done in this haphazard way proposed with this legislation.
If you have thoughts on this legislation, the public hearing has not yet been scheduled before the Council; however, it is currently before the Planning Commission, who is holding a virtual meeting on December 1st at 7pm. You can sign up to provide live testimony or submit written here.
Short Term rental legislation
I mentioned my neighborhood is having an issue with what was an unlicensed short term rental (STR) that is NOT occupied by the owner (non-owner occupied), which is contributing more noise and traffic than we are used to. They finally got a license but then it was found that there are three owners of the property who also own two other STRs in the City, who are clearly trying to find ways around our existing STR regulations, which prohibit any one person or entity from owning more than one short term rental. The intention of that provision is to prevent circumstances like this, where out-of-City (or out-of-state in this instance) investors buy up residential properties and convert them to STRs, and to ensure that there is local ownership and more importantly local accountability (i.e. we can speak to our neighbors directly about issues). I’m working on legislation to address this immediate attempt to skirt our laws, to be followed by another piece of legislation that will essentially be making non-owner occupied STRs be considered businesses. When you look at it, STRs without the owners are hotels/inns. Such properties do not serve the community or residential neighborhood, but instead support tourists visiting our town, which then makes it a business. My planned legislation would have non-owner occupied STRs needing to apply for a special exception (with a public hearing/notification process) if they want to locate in a residential neighborhood. I’m still working on the details of both pieces of legislation with our law office but I hope to get something introduced before the new year.
Ward 7 Town Hall meeting
I’d like to discuss some of these issues with you on December 5st at a Ward 7 Town Hall meeting at the Eastport-Annapolis Neck Library from 6:30 to 8:30pm.
Stay healthy and stay safe,
First of all, happy Veterans Day to all those who have served or are serving.
We have a Council meeting coming up this Monday and I wanted to highlight a few things. I have about 10 pieces of legislation I’m working on with the law office, and the first one to get out of the gate is one that would require “turtle-friendly” curbing within the Critical Area. In our neighborhood, Georgetown Grove, we regularly have turtles crossing the road and nesting in our front yards, and our kids have enjoyed seeing turtles of all ages and species crossing our streets and yards. This got me thinking, why don’t we do this in other neighborhoods in the City? This legislation would require that the same “rolled/rounded” curb is required for use on side roads (non-arterial) anywhere in the Critical Area (near the water).
I’ll try to get a town hall meeting scheduled for perhaps December or January, and I’ll give you a briefing on what I’m working on. I may invite someone from the County to speak on a few County projects, including the proposed work at Peninsula Park, and their new initiative to gather information on how they can make Forest Drive a safer road to travel.
Stay healthy and stay safe,
This Monday’s Council meeting will be starting at 6pm, as opposed to the usual 7pm, as we are starting our meeting with a special closed session, I believe to talk about the lawsuit against the City and HACA regarding the maintenance and inspections of their units.
Also, in election news, since we have one coming up in a few weeks, I wanted to make a pitch for our team here in District 30: State Senator Sarah Elfreth, Del Shaneka Henson, & Del Dana Jones, who are all running for re-election, and in my opinion have done an excellent job and deserve to be re-elected. I’m hosting a fundraiser for them, and County Councilwoman Lisa Rodvien, on October 28th at 6:30 at 117 Legion Ave. I hope some of you can attend!
Stay healthy and stay safe,
I have some more good news for Ward 7. This summer I mentioned how the City has closed the deal, with support from State/federal funding/partners, on purchasing and protecting the Elktonia Carr’s Beach property, which was previously slated for development of 50 or so townhomes. Now the City is moving forward with the last piece of this initiative, which is the Moore property (see image below). On Monday’s Council agenda is Supplemental Appropriation (SA-13-23), which would put forward some City bond funding to get this effort solidified. I believe the plan would be to provide a home for Blacks of the Chesapeake. This is very exciting news for Ward 7, the environment, and for the African American community!
On October 18th, the Capital Gazette is hosting a debate between County Executive candidates Steuart Pittman and Jessica Haire. You can get information here. Also, they are asking for questions, which you can submit here.
Stay healthy and stay safe,
This blog post is getting out later than usual due to my son’s birthday as well as all of the Annapolis Songwriters Festival activities. I hope you were able to enjoy some music over the past few days.
Tomorrow we will be holding final votes on expanding entertainment opportunities in the B1 district, designating two pocket parks in West Annapolis, condemning the destruction of the Greenbury Point conservation area, setting up a task force to review our municipal code governing our elections, and creating a new fee for maritime zones. If you have any thoughts on any of these, please let me know.Read more
This Wednesday at 6pm we will be having a virtual community meeting (this is NOT a town hall event) regarding the Griscom Square development, at the corner of Bay Ridge Ave and Tyler Ave. This may especially be of interest to those of you who live on Tyler Ave, in Bethany Court, or Cedar Ridge. I've contacted the developer, John Pilli (previously of Annapolis), and he has agreed to join us for a community meeting so that everyone can be briefed on what this project is, and so that the community can voice any questions or concerns they may have. On the plus side, John is a local developer who I think will be sensitive to the community's concerns.Read more