Since this will likely be my last email before Thanksgiving, I’d like to wish everyone a pleasant and safe Thanksgiving holiday. I’m certainly looking forward to a break.
Here are a few updates regarding the next Council meeting and other issues going on in the City.
Parkside Preserve construction project
Work on the Parkside Preserve (aka Reserve at Quiet Waters) development project off Annapolis Neck Road continues. I walked the perimeter of the site a few weekends back and noticed what appeared to be too much land cleared in violation of the approved plans. After checking with staff, the contractor has indeed cleared too much of the site and the City said they have taken corrective actions. I hope to check again soon to make sure the site is properly stabilized. I believe they have a few more weeks of preliminary clearing work and then they are supposed to stabilize the site until the spring. If anyone living near this construction site sees anything wrong, please contact me immediately.
Redevelopment of C&C Liquors site - Lidl
The Lidl applicants held a community meeting about their development of this site, and from what I gather they will be holding another meeting as they didn’t meet the code requirements on the first one. As far as I know they are still moving forward with re-developing this lot. They are meeting all of their forest conservation requirements on-site and will be treating more than the minimum required stormwater. They will also have pedestrian improvements installed between the adjacent properties. They said they cannot remove the existing derelict buildings until they are further along with the permit approval process.
As you may have noticed in The Capital, the current City Manager, Teresa Sutherland, will be resigning on February 1st. I’m looking forward to the change. The Mayor has put forward David Jarrel, our current director of Public Works, as his nominee. While I greatly respect David and think he would do a very good job as City Manager, I remain concerned about a few things: 1. We need to make sure we are complying with our Charter requirements, considering we swore an oath, and many of us (though not all…) are waiting for that before proceeding, 2. I remain concerned about what will happen to Public Works without Director Jarrel there, 3. I lean towards supporting a nationwide search for a professionally trained and certified City Manager, though the Mayor does not want to go that direction given he only has two years left in this term. For the Council’s part, we only get an up or down vote on the confirmation, but we can change the Charter to be more specific in terms of qualifications or process.
Next Council meeting - 11/18/19 (agenda)
Council meetings are held at 160 Duke of Gloucester St (2nd floor) at 7pm and are televised on local cable, Facebook, and the City website (www.annapolis.gov)
- O-28-19 - Tattoo Parlors - This would limit where Tattoo Parlors can open by restricting them to “Business Enhancement Districts” and “Mixed Use Districts” only.
- O-34-19 - Change to appeal process when appealing P&Z director decisions or actions. I had originally signed onto this legislation as it appeared to clear up some issues with the appeal process, in terms of the order of the presentation during a case, but a number of people have pointed out how it appears to make other changes to the appeals process that I do not agree with as they appear to weaken the process. In light of this, I have withdrawn my sponsorship of the legislation. If it gets fixed in committee I may sign back on but for now I no longer support it.
- O-35-19 - Waterfront Maritime Conservation District - Uses - For the purpose of allowing the uses Seafood Industrial and Food Service Marts in the Waterfront Maritime Conservation District. Established in 1087, the purpose of the WMC zone was “to provide a location for maritime-related activities, including docks and slips; public access, recreational uses; and views of the waterfront in an attractive environment which supports and is harmonious with the interrelationship of the historic urban core, the waterfront and adjacent commercial and residential uses.” The additional uses are proposed to strengthen the connection of the WMC zone to the maritime industry by promoting the maritime function and enhancing the historic maritime character of the City Dock.
- O-37-19 - Order and decorum at City Council Meetings – This ordinance authorizes the Mayor to preserve order and decorum at meetings and prohibits certain activities in Council Chambers. Also prohibits visual demonstrations such as the waving of placards, signs, or banners in Council Chambers. In addition, the Mayor may seek removal of any individual who refuses to abide by the provisions of O-37-19, and, in the case of a disturbance or disorderly conduct in the City Council Chambers, the Mayor or the presiding officer may order Council Chambers to be cleared. Should the public be allowed to wave signs at the public meetings? Does this infringe on free speech? It’s certainly a balance to between allowing free speech and ensuring we can hold our meetings, but does this strike a good balance for you? I’m a little concerned about the prohibition on waving signs and on making “personal remarks”, and will likely seek amendments in committee, pending comments from you.
Legislation being introduced (first reader)
- R-47-19 - Slavery 1619 - The Beginning of America’s Unforgettable Sin - For the purpose of recognizing the beginning of an excruciatingly horrendous period in the history of America and in the history of the City of Annapolis that began exactly 400 years ago in 1619; recognizing the unbelievable pain that continues; and pledging to chart a path moving forward. I will be supporting this on first reader and signed on as a sponsor.
Legislation up for a final vote
- R-46-19 - Approves the salary for the acting Planning & Zoning Director. I’ll be supporting this, pending any comments from you. Dr. Nash has been serving well in this capacity and deserves to continue getting paid. The Mayor assures us that they are continuing to search for a new Director and will be re-advertising.
- O-20-19 - This legislation proposes to prohibit a dwelling use above seven specific ground floor commercial uses in the B1, Convenience Shopping District, and the B2, Community Shopping District. I currently don’t support this. I don’t understand the purpose or why it’s needed. It would seem to prevent adding housing on second floors in these areas (such as parking lots, stormwater management areas, etc), when it could make sense to add such housing. It would impact a portion of Ward 7. I believe this will end up getting postponed.
- O-26-19 & R-30-19 - Establishing new short term rental (i.e. air B&B) regulations. I support the legislation as written (and amended to fix the language in some areas), which would prohibit short term rentals unless they are owner occupied as a primary residence. We have received considerable public testimony about this, hence I’ve been giving it significant consideration myself. What it comes down to for me is what builds communities? Short term rentals typically bring in a new tenant every weekend. There are no families, no kids, no civic engagement, no dialog between neighbors. Some streets in the historic district have upwards of 40% of their homes vacant as short term rentals. I keep thinking about what would happen in my neighborhood if we were to have 40% of our homes vacant. Would my son be able to run across the street as he does now to play with his neighborhood friends? Would we feel safe letting him do that if we had new visitors every weekend? Would my wife and I have friends in our neighborhood who we could continue to meet with for house parties and game nights? I’m not so sure, which is why I support severely limiting the number of short term rentals in our community. There are two amendments being offered Monday night by my colleagues that will weaken this Ordinance to a point where it won’t be much of a limit on short term rentals. One is amendment #23, which would allow residents and non-residents to have one short term rental, whether owner-occupied or not, as long as they have a property manager overseeing it. The second is amendment #25, which would get rid of the day limit (current code is 180 days, Ordinance as written is 120 days) on how many days a unit can be rented as a short term rental. I’m not set on the day limit, and could forgo it if we limit short term rentals to owner-occupied units. I’m not seeking to kill the short term industry, but for me my priority is improving our neighborhoods. People will still be able to rent out their rooms, or their house for a weekend. I’d also like to keep the requirements for home inspections if folks want to rent out their houses. If residents don’t like these rules, they can always rent their properties as long term rentals, which at least bring in families and actual residents that contribute to our communities. Let’s look at what they do elsewhere: Chevy Chase, Gaithersburg, Garrett Park, Kensington, Laytonsville, Poolsville, Rockville, Somerset, and Washington Grove all prohibit listings of short term rentals. Montgomery County, PG County, DC, Baltimore City, Sharpsburg, and Talbot County all require primary residency/owner-occupied STVRs. Why would we do things differently? I've read about communities like Sedona, AZ, that have been significantly impacted by the enormous jump in STRs. We need to avoid this now given the rate these businesses are growing. I plan on offering some amendments of my own, which I’m still working on, which will likely seek to ensure that the online rental platforms are reporting their data to us and not allowing their users to rent properties unless they have valid licenses from the City. All that said, my vote and comments are NOT final as I want to hear more from you about how you feel about this legislation.
- O-19-19 - Adequate Public Facilities - Auto transportation facilities - For the purpose of clarifying the circumstances that would require a traffic impact analysis for a proposed project; clarifying the standards to be used to determine adequacy; and generally relating to the adequacy of auto transportation facilities. I am a sponsor of this legislation. It will likely be postponed to give the Planning Commission more time to comment on it. I have a number of amendments I’d like to make to it that would actually place a consequence in scenarios where a traffic study determines a development will cause an intersection to fail, and there is no mitigation. In our current code nothing happens. The developer can build and residents have to deal with a failing roadway and the associated traffic or accident frequency. Speaking of which, I recently learned that when looking at the top 10 most dangerous intersections in the County, analyzing the frequency of accidents, we have 5 of the 10 in Annapolis, most of them being on the Forest Drive corridor.
- SA-13-20 - This proposed transfer is in regards to the new Truxtun pool construction. The original cost was $3.1 million, which was increased to $4million in the last budget to pay for the parking lot stormwater improvements and furniture. But now, apparently, DPW is asking for another $1 million to pay for “unanticipated costs.” These funds are proposed to come out of our contingency fund ($750k) and watershed restoration fund ($200k). Apparently this would “”substantially deplete” our contingency fund and impact our planned FY21 projects. I don’t have details yet on what projects would be impacted or why exactly the costs have increased so much. There’s a lot I need to learn about this before I vote in favor.
New Community updates
Continuing community announcements
Annapolis 2020 Comprehensive Plan survey
Take a few minutes of your time to complete this survey for the 2020 Annapolis Comprehensive Plan update and share where your priorities lie for the next 20 years in the City. The questions regarding planning priorities are informed by meetings with stakeholders over the last two months and the first public meeting that was held on May 7th.
Take the survey here: https://forms.gle/uYdq7sCX2ihF96dq8