I’d like to fill you in on an environmental emergency out at ironically named Parkside Preserve (aka Reserve at Quiet Waters), which instead of preserving our newest park instead has polluted it. I’ll provide details below in the updates section. But if it outrages you that developers polluted public lands, sensitive non-tidal wetlands that form the headwaters of Quiet Waters Park, and broke the law to do so, then please read on.
Also, this is our last Council meeting before our August break, and it’s our last meeting for us to introduce Ordinances before the end of our terms (unless we suspend the rules); hence, we have quite a bit of legislation on the agenda.
In case you didn’t notice from the last meeting, we postponed the Short Term Rental legislation vote until this Monday, we voted down the medical cannabis legislation after it was weakened with some poison amendments, and we passed the legislation that allows the proposed Lidl grocery store to connect to our sewer and water.
Also, at the start of our Monday meeting, at 6pm, we will be having a closed door meeting speaking about the Hillman parking garage replacement project. Our regular meeting starts at 7pm.
Lastly, I’m introducing two pieces of legislation to address some loopholes in the City regarding tree/forest protection that we uncovered recently. More information on these below.
Stay healthy and stay safe,
Next Council meeting – 7/26/21 (agenda)
This Council meeting is starting at 7pm and will be televised on local cable, Facebook, and the City website (www.annapolis.gov). http://www.youtube.com/CityofAnnapolis http://www.facebook.com/CityofAnnapolis
Anyone needing reasonable accommodation to be able to participate in a public meeting held by the City of Annapolis should contact Regina Watkins-Eldridge at 410.263.7942, by MD Relay (711), or by email at [email protected] at least five days prior to the meeting date to request assistance.
If you are unable to attend, I believe you can still submit public testimony at http://www.annapolis.gov/testimony.
Public hearings (in- person testimony is now allowed)
- O-26-21 - Emergency Ordinance - Recovery Zones and Temporary Uses - For the purpose of extending the temporary uses and parking restrictions for outdoor seating at restaurants and outdoor shopping options
Legislation being introduced on First Reader
- O-27-21 - Cellco Partnership, d/b/a Verizon Wireless - Lease Agreement - For the purpose of approving the lease for certain City-owned property within the City of Annapolis between Cellco Partnership, d/b/a Verizon Wireless and the City of Annapolis; and matters generally relating to said Lease Agreement.
- O-29-21 - City Holidays - Juneteenth - For the purpose of designating Juneteenth National Independence Day as a City paid holiday.
- O-30-21 - Market Space Lease Agreements - For the purpose of approving the leases for certain City-owned property located at Market Space
- O-31-21 - Issuance of General Obligation Bonds and Bond Anticipation Notes
- O-32-21 - Zoning Code - Use and Occupancy Permits - For the purpose of providing procedures for issuance of use and occupancy permits under the Zoning Code; providing timelines for the approval of a permit; requiring a maintenance bond; and generally relating to the use and occupancy permitting process.
- O-33-21 - Tree removal on private property - For the purpose of requiring a permit for the removal of certain trees located on private property anywhere within the City limits; and generally relating to the removal of trees on private property. This is legislation I am introducing. It would require property owners to get a permit before seeking to remove trees over 23” anywhere on the property. Currently, trees over 23” are only protected if they are within 50’ or so of a public right-of-way (i.e. roadway). Given the importance of these large trees to our water quality, air quality, and general aesthetic, I thought it would be good to extend some protection to them.
- O-34-21 - Forest Conservation - Reforestation - For the purpose of requiring reforestation in certain circumstances to maintain the City's current tree canopy percentage; and generally relating to reforestation requirements. This is legislation I am introducing. It would close a few loopholes that were uncovered in the previous “no net loss of forests” legislation we passed a few years back.
- R-23-21 - Tree Removal on Private Property - Fines - For the purpose of establishing fines for the removal of certain trees; and providing an effective date. These are the fines associated with the new O-33-21 legislation (fines for removing larger trees without a permit).
- R-24-21 - Opioid and Illicit Substance Abuse Epidemic - For the purpose of recognizing that nationwide opioid and illicit substance abuse is an epidemic; supporting educational outreach; and promoting the need for increased funding through Federal, State, and County Intervention Teams to aid in combating the epidemic. I have signed onto this legislation as a co-sponsor.
- R-25-21 - Position Classifications - Amendments - For the purpose of amending the Fiscal Year 2022 position classifications.
Legislation on second reader (i.e. final vote)
- O-7-21 - Short Term Rental (STR) Licenses - Conservation Districts - For the purpose of requiring special exception approval for a new non owner-occupied short term rental license in the R2-NC, C1, and C1-A conservation residence districts; requiring special exception approval for the transfer of any existing non owner-occupied short term rental license in the R2-NC, C1, and C1-A conservation residence districts; providing definitions; providing for the waiver of special exception approval for certain individuals; and generally related to short term rental licenses. Pending any input from you, I am inclined to support this legislation. I think this is a reasonable compromise that does not ban any type of STR. All it does is require that the non-owner occupied STRs (i.e. the whole-house rentals) have to get special exceptions when they are proposed to be located in a conservation district. I think this makes sense because non-owner occupied STRs have the greatest potential impact to communities, in that they completely alter a neighborhood, in great enough density, by not providing for any actual residents that contribute to the neighborhood. This legislation would not ban them, but it would at least give the community a voice in the process. Such non-owner occupied STRS are essentially businesses that are located in residential areas and thus should be subject to community input. Lastly, the conservation districts were/are intended to do just what the name implies: conserve the residential districts from the nearby business districts, and this legislation would accomplish that goal.
- O-26-21 - Emergency Ordinance - Recovery Zones and Temporary Uses - For the purpose of extending the temporary uses and parking restrictions for outdoor seating at restaurants and outdoor shopping options for retail establishments authorized by certain Executive Orders; providing a termination date; and making this Ordinance an emergency measure. Pending comments from you, I am inclined to support this legislation, as I feel that having more outdoor dining tends to enhance our town for visitors and residents. That said, I do also support reviewing some of our current street parking structures to perhaps convert more of them to temporary parking spots for the retail stores, unless they are close to structured parking.
- O-17-21 - Public Services - Water and Sewer - For the purpose of modifying the charges for water service for certain users; modifying the charges for sewer service for certain users; and generally relating to providing water and sewer service. This removes what is essentially a double-billing of those that live outside of the City. They already pay triple our utility rates so this is not needed. Pending comments from you, I’m inclined to support this legislation.
- O-23-21 - Annapolis Harbor Lines - 222 Severn Avenue - For the purpose of amending the configuration of the Annapolis harbor line outboard of 222 Severn Avenue on Spa Creek; and generally related to said harbor line. This straightens out the harbor line to make more sense as an actual harbor line, so pending any comments from you I’m inclined to support this legislation.
- R-22-21 - South Annapolis Yacht Center - Public Water Access - For the purpose of requiring the Department of Planning and Zoning to hold a public meeting for the general public to be heard on the South Annapolis Yacht Center fence application. This may be a moot point now that the developer has reportedly withdrawn their fence application. I’ll yield to the primary sponsor, Alderman Arnett, as I will either support or vote to withdraw depending on the need.
Environmental disaster at Parkside Preserve and Quiet Waters Park
The developer/contractor of the inappropriately named Parkside Preserve (aka Reserve at Quiet Waters) project, has polluted the headwater wetlands of Quiet Waters Park and our future City park at the site of the development; yes, the future park/wetlands/forest we fought for around 10 years to protect. This is still being investigated, but it appears to have happened because at minimum the developer failed to inspect their site as required by code (after every rain event), and at worst they deliberately bypassed the sediment protections installed. And unfortunately our own City inspectors failed to catch the problem until they were notified. Furthermore, it would appear that the City gave approval to remove more forest than originally approved, without providing notice to the broader environmental or local community.
At Wednesday's Environmental Matters Committee meeting (go to 23 min) I spoke with staff about this situation. I’ll be giving a report on this to the rest of the Council during my Committee report on Monday night.
Suffice it to say, I am outraged over this violation of our laws. Such pollution of wetlands is prohibited, such poor maintenance of sediment control measures is prohibited, and such lax site inspections by the developers is prohibited. It is the City’s responsibility to ensure the developer complies with our laws, yet we have found evidence that may not have been being done, at least not to a sufficient level. If our inspectors were going out more frequently, and aggressively ensuring the site was in compliance and that the developer was doing their job, we may not be in this situation today. Improvements can and must be implemented. Additionally, they appear to have reversed a commitment to not impact additional trees in the protected forest, made in 2015 in The Capital. This is a violation of the public trust. We create laws to be followed. We create parks to be protected. I sincerely hope that the City takes this seriously and fines the developer, (will they make the polluters pay?) requires remediation for the impacted wetlands and trees, and makes changes to ensure our code is followed and utilized to its fullest extent in the future. Fortunately, our new Deputy City Manager for Resilience and Sustainability, Jackie Guild, does understand the gravity of the situation. She does plan on investigating the City's response and ensuring adequate enforcement. Her position was created to be able to resolve situations just like this; to bring the full management authority of City Manager's office to figure out what went wrong, make said corrections with staff, and institute other changes as needed to any and all departments to prevent this from happening again.
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