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
Here are some community updates as well as information on our Monday Council meeting.
Parkeside Preserve – damage in Quiet Waters - emergency action AGAIN
As you may recall, around 6 months ago we had issues at this property with mud and sediment (pollution) illegally running off into Quiet Waters Park. Thanks to the watchful eye from our Ward 7 residents in Beechwood Hill, we were able to document this and get things mostly resolved. The site was mostly in compliance, the Council passed a Resolution with new inspection and enforcement procedures (based on current law), and the Department of Public Works (DPW) created new inspection schedules, protocols, and got a commitment from the developer to hire a 3rd party inspector.
Fast-forward to June, and after receiving more photographs of off-site pollution I decided to visit the site myself. I noticed upwards of 18 violations to our code, despite all of these “improvements” being made by DPW. When I dug into things at the last Environmental Matters Committee meeting (which I Chair), it was discovered that DPW had actually inspected the site the morning before I sent them my list of violations. DPW found ZERO violations and said everything was in order, where again, I found 18. DPW unfortunately had no answer for this, and were dead silent when I asked them what they were going to do to correct the issue with the poor City inspections. Mysteriously, after initially finding zero violations, DPW went out a few days after I sent my report and then found around half a dozen violations. So clearly I wasn’t wrong with my assertions. This has also since been confirmed by MDE, who visited the site and essentially verified everything I was alleging. What’s worse, I had discovered that the previous Resolution the Council passed in February was utterly ignored by DPW, partially due to the previous Director resigning from his position. Yes, you read that right, DPW ignored the will of the Council. I walked through most of the provisions of this Resolution and showed them how it was being ignored. I’m still working on getting them to comply with this Resolution and will be speaking with the new City manager and DPW director next month about it.
Fast-forward to this past week, and I put together another emergency Resolution. When I went out to the site in June, I also noticed that the volume of water being discharged from this project has been causing damage to the receiving stream in Quiet Waters Park, which is illegal per our Code. I have pictures of this stream from back in 2011, and back then it was an ephemeral stream that had standing water and in some areas only blackened leaves indicating where the water flowed. So back then, there wasn’t enough force/volume of water to even move the leaves, which is why they became blackened. But now there is such volume of water leaving this project site that it has washed all of the leaves away, washed away the topsoil, created large debris jams, and is causing active erosion in the stream bed. As a 20+ year professional in stream restoration and erosion control, I can say with certainty that this stream is now unraveling and will become an eroded gully in a few years if this is not addressed (such erosion runs counter to our Code purposes). Hence this Resolution. I organized a walkthru of the stream with City and County staff, as well as the developer and County Councilwoman Lisa Rodvien (who was incredibly helpful), to review the problems. After that, I finished drafting the Resolution. What the Resolution does is resolve that the Council wants immediate action taken to stabilize and protect this stream and to reduce the volume of runoff during construction, that DPW review the final stormwater permit and plans to determine if more water quantity needs to be managed post-construction, and that the $4 million bond be held for at least 2 years post-construction in case any work needs to be done after this project is built-out. We had an emergency Council session on Thursday to get this introduced, and final vote will be on Monday. If you support this I encourage you to come out and testify or submit public testimony!
Griscom Square – development at Tyler & Bay Ridge
The development at Tyler and Bay Ridge has started clearing the forest. This will be a 12-unit single family home development behind the existing homes on Tyler, between Tyler and Bethany Court and Cedar Ridge Court. This is, unfortunately, one of the “zombie” permits that lives on (see Rick Hutzell's article on this topic), despite having 2006 approval (along with the Rocky Gorge project off Aris T. Allen Blvd) that should have expired long ago. Unfortunately, Planning & Zoning decided to utilize their discretion over the years to grant extension after extension, and even cancel a cancellation of their permits oddly enough (when it comes to Rocky Gorge), which means these projects are being built to our 2006 standards rather than the most recent laws. This is rather frustrating, considering that we have worked incredibly hard to update our Forest Conservation, Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) program, adequate public facilities requirements, and our stormwater code, just to name a few. The Council feels ignored and bypassed by City staff. Over the next few months I’ll be introducing legislation to address/correct this underlying issue and speaking with the new City Manager.
But back to Griscom Square, I’ve secured a commitment from P&Z staff to reassess the property to determine if the forest has changed since their 2015 forest approvals, undertake a review of permit approvals and extensions, and they have committed to work with me to setup a community meeting with the developer. The purpose of this meeting will be to ensure everyone is aware of what this project entails, and to give you an opportunity to express any concerns or requests to the developer (a former local named John Pilli). I have spoken with Mr. Pilli and he is willing to meet. Once we have agreed upon a date and time I will let you know. I’m not yet sure if this will be virtual or in-person. If you have a preference, please let me know.
Carrs beach vote
We will be voting on SA-4-23, which authorizes the use of some of our Capital Reserve funds to help pay for the closing costs for acquiring the Carrs Beach property, which is a forested lot with wetlands next to BayWoods. This is the historic property that used to be an African American beach that had many famous musicians that would visit back in the day.
Police accountability board update on nominee
Our last nominee to the County Police Accountability Board ended up withdrawing his name from consideration, so we had to find a new candidate, which is now Ms. Sharron Elliott, who has an extensive background in criminal justice. I’m inclined to support her nomination, pending any comments from you.
FYI, the Council is in recess for the month of August. We will be having no meetings, which means I likely will not be sending out any email updates, unless something comes up that I feel you might want to be informed about. I’ll be trying to take a break myself, but I do have a lot of legislation to work on in between getting time with my family.
Stay healthy and stay safe,
This Monday’s Council meeting looks a bit light. There are a number of things up for public hearings but nothing controversial or monumental, with the exception of the nomination below.
Annapolis appointment to County Police Accountability Board
We will be voting on recommending the appointment of Mr. Luke Griffin to serve as the Annapolis representative on the County Police Accountability Board. You can view his resume or letter. After hearing Mr. Griffin speak at the last Council meeting, I’m inclined to support his nomination, pending any comments from you.
Brooke Lierman for Comptroller
I’m proud to endorse Brooke Lierman for MD Comptroller. I got to know Brooke because we were both pushing for legislation to ban styrofoam and reduce plastic bag usage. She was doing so as State Delegate in the General Assembly and I was doing so for the City. This has earned her the coveted Sierra Club endorsement. She is one of the most grounded politicians I’ve had the pleasure to meet, with a desire and proven ability to stand up for her constituents and do what is right. She will be an excellent Comptroller.
Stay healthy and stay safe,
At this Monday’s Council meeting, we will be voting on whether or not to ratify the Union agreements. I will likely be voting no, in light of the Financial Advisory Commission’s comments and recommendations (see below under R-35-22). Without corresponding cuts or a new revenue stream, we simply can’t afford this. While we can pay for this in the short term with COVID relief funds, in 2 or so years we will be in a bind without action taken because those one-time-use funds will be expended. This agreement sets us up for failure. One of the reasons it is so high is because of a 20% increase in police salaries to boost recruitment and retention. While I support that effort given that our existing officers are working double shifts, we need to find a dedicated funding source and also need to look at reimagining policing so that we can determine if we need so many armed officers and to see if we can reduce crime by spending on social services instead.
We will also be voting on deputizing the Mayor’s boat, and have a public hearing on a Resolution impacting arts funding.
Passing of two prominent Ward 7 residents
David was a long-time Ward 7 resident who had a 40-year career in international development, touching numerous lives along the way. He and his wife, Lisa Borre, sailed throughout the world, writing a sailing guide together for the Black Sea. Locally, he was incredibly active advocating for the environment, was a founding member of the Back Creek Conservancy (now merged with the Severn River Association), and was the driving force behind getting Annapolis waters designated as a No Discharge Zone. He will be missed.
Retired Rear Admiral Guy Shaffer
We lost our dear Guy Shaffer, a Bay Woods resident, last month. He was a retired 2-star Rear Admiral, who started his military career specializing in Nuclear Power Submarines and was the Deputy Director of the Trident Missile Development and Director of Operations at the Defense Nuclear Agency. Besides his professional accomplishments, he was incredibly active in the Ward, advocating for Bay Woods, improvements at the Annapolis Maritime Museum Moyer Park campus, finding CRAB a home on Bembe Beach Road, and for protecting the Carrs Beach property next to Bay Woods. He will be missed.
Ward 7 budget enhancements passed
I’m happy to report that all 6 of the budget amendments I proposed have passed and are currently included in the final budget, which we are set to take a final vote on tomorrow night. This includes money for the new crosswalk on Edgewood Rd near Yachtsman Way and tallwood Rd, enhancing the sidewalk through the Annapolis Maritime Museum’s Moyer Park campus, installing a new sidewalk on Bay Ridge Rd adjacent to the Shell gas station and running down the street past the nearby church towards Eastport, the elimination of PFAS chemicals from the fire Department (protecting the health of our firefighters and residents), and funding for a consultant to draft a city-wide electric mobility plan.
Stay healthy and stay safe,