At this upcoming Council meeting you’ll have another opportunity to testify in regards to how development happens in the Ward, by commenting on the Eastport/Forest Drive Sector Study. In addition, the now 12-month old School Capacity Adequate Facilities ordinance is up for final action or postponement. Will we finally take action on this?
Next Council meeting - 2/11/19 (agenda)
- R-45-18 - 2018 Forest Drive/Eastport Sector Study - Given the concerns I’ve heard from the community, I asked for the public comment period on this to be held open until February 25th. I’m still concerned that the communities impacted weren’t sufficiently notified or reached out to, and I’m concerned that this study doesn’t address the two primary concerns identified in the public survey (traffic and the environment). Furthermore, I don’t see the sense in amending a decade old 2009 Annapolis Comprehensive Plan (which is what this study would do), when we have to adopt a new Annapolis Comprehensive Plan in 2020 anyway. Along those lines, this Sector Study impacts a majority of the City (2/3rds), and seems to be a Comprehensive Plan in and of itself, so I’d rather see its useful material be utilized to develop the 2020 Comp Plan.
NOTE: The Annapolis Neck Peninsula Federation is holding a public meeting about this Study on February 28th at 7pm at the Eastport-Annapolis Neck Library.
Sector Study Summary
The role of a Sector Study is very similar to that of a Comprehensive Plan, except it’s a more targeted approach to guiding development and assessing needs in a particular “sector” of the City. The larger Comprehensive Plan seeks to do this, but also to create a collective vision and set of goals that is to guide all of our local policy. If this Sector Study is adopted, it will become a part of the 2009 Annapolis Comprehensive Plan, and will be used as a springboard to create the 2020 Annapolis Comprehensive Plan. That’s why we need to get this right. Furthermore, it will have large impacts, for better or worse, to Ward 7 and the entire Annapolis Neck Peninsula. What this Sector study proposes to do is essentially change the character of future development, aiming to make it less auto-centric by utilizing more pockets of commercial development and other mobility options up and down the corridor to reduce the need for more driving. As a part of this, it also identifies areas for greenway improvements, economic improvements, and other “neighborhood enhancements”. While this all may sound good, the concern is that the traffic analysis in this report, which doesn’t even look at a max “build out” scenario, already indicates that many of our intersections are failing. Many of the traffic improvements suggested rely upon the County’s agreement since Forest Drive is a County roadway. Some specific changes to Ward 7 that are proposed are “neighborhood enhancements” in Fairwinds (allowing for more connectivity and traffic calming), creating more of an urban center around the Giant and True Value Hardware store (with potentially more height, up to 8 stores around the Giant, converting the property with the church to “urban village center”), allowing for adaptive use on the homes at the end of Cypress near Forest Drive (residential to commercial, 1-story), just to name a few. Estimates range from 400 to 4,000 new residential units if this plan were carried forward; however, it’s important to note that even without this plan we may be facing that potential increase. But is this Sector Study the answer? Does it adequately address the two primary concerns people identified in the survey: traffic and environmental protection? I’m not convinced that it does. In light of our current traffic issues, should we be calling for more commercial and residential development? Should we be improving infrastructure and assessing our capacity for new growth before proposing these changes? Should we be considering “down zoning” in certain areas where we can’t handle more growth and want greenways? These are the questions I’m struggling with. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
- O-3-19 - Sidewalk snow and ice removal - This is simply a code correction regarding the fine amount to make it consistent with what’s laid out in the fine and fee schedule. This doesn’t increase the fine.
Legislation up for a final vote
- O-8-18 - Adequate School Facilities - Currently, developers can keep building new housing in the City as long as such developments aren’t estimated to increase the capacity of our Elementary and Middle Schools by over 105%, and our High School by 120%. Many of us campaigned on reducing all of these percentages to 100%, to do our part to ensure none of our schools are over capacity, even though our schools are ultimately controlled by the County. There are a number of amendments being considered, one of which would add an exemption for affordable housing. I have an amendment that would ensure this applies to all projects that don’t yet have their certificate of adequateness. Some on the Council want to exempt any project “in the pipeline” which would exempt projects as old as 10 years, which doesn't make much sense to me. We will be discussing whether or not to postpone action on this again, as the Mayor is requesting time to meet with the School District and County to discuss how to get more capacity in the High School. He is concerned that this would stop all growth, which is a misconception, and honestly not a bad thing if it did happen. If new development was halted because a school was at capacity, they would need to wait 6 years to build, or they could build once there is a contract to do certain school improvements. Without this legislation passing, there will be no incentive for developers to pool their resources or for the City to push for addressing our school capacity issues. That’s why it is needed in my opinion. I currently am not leaning towards another delay, since the Mayor didn’t honor his promises of action since the last delay, and I intend to support this legislation (I’m a co-sponsor), pending any concerns raised from you.
- R-2-19 - 2019 St. Patrick’s Day Parade - Waiver of Fees - This legislation would waive the fees associated with this parade; approximately $8,000. I’m not sure how I’m going to vote on this, so please send me any thoughts you may have. I don’t like the idea of waiving such fees, and I feel we must end this pattern given that we raised your taxes last year. However, given this parade is one of the most popular and brings in around 10,000 people, is such an economic boost to the City worth $8,000 in taxpayer money? Should we do this for a private organization without seeing their financial records? The money reportedly goes to good causes but we haven’t seen confirmation of that assertion.
Highlights from previous Council meeting
- We passed O-45-18 - Fair housing, unlawful housing practices - I was a co-sponsor of this legislation - This essentially makes it unlawful to discriminate based on lawful sources of income, such as section 8 housing vouchers.
- We passed O-40-18 - Vacant Nonresidential Buildings - Registration - For the purpose of requiring vacant or partially vacant nonresidential buildings to be registered with the Department of Planning and Zoning; requiring posting of vacant property signage on all such buildings; establishing a registry of vacant or partially vacant nonresidential buildings.
Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement Events for the month of February
- February 23, 2019 - Diaspora 2019: The City of Annapolis African Heritage Celebration - 12 PM - 8 PM
Community meeting about the Eastport/Forest Drive Sector Study
The Annapolis Neck Peninsula Federation invites you to a public meeting for a presentation of the Forest Drive/Eastport Sector Study and a panel discussion.
Thursday, February 28, 7:00PM - 8:45PM
Eastport-Annapolis Neck Library
269 Hillsmere Drive
Annapolis Planning and Zoning staff will present key elements of the Sector Study, followed by a panel discussion moderated by Professor Dan Nataf, AACC.