With Elk Club out, Bestgate Road in as possible District Court site

July 29, 1992|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

While state officials have decided to look elsewhere for a site for their new District Court building, county officials are still considering the Elks Club property on Rowe Boulevard for a Circuit Court facility.

The 6.9-acre property had been eyed as home for both District Court and Circuit Court buildings, but officials decided at a meeting last week that it would be too small to accommodate both.

"The problem is the parking situation. If you put both buildings there, there would be absolutely no room for parking," said Jerome W. Klasmeier, director of the county Central Services Department.

The decision means that state officials will continue to consider a controversial site behind the state Emissions Inspections Station, on a 55-acre piece of property along Bestgate Road, just outside Annapolis.

State Budget and Fiscal Planning officials yesterday said no decision had been reached on a District Court location, but that the Bestgate Road site is still being considered.

State officials say the Bestgate Road site was preferred, after a review of more than 30 possible sites, because it is available for $125,000 to $150,000 per acre. Other sites were being marketed for more than twice that, state officials said.

But that location has inspired a storm of protest.

"It's just not a site that's suitable for a courthouse location," said Charles Lamb, a retired architect and urban planner.

Mr. Lamb and other opponents of the site say building a District Court on Bestgate Road would to commercial sprawl in what is a residentially zoned community.

Neighbors of the Bestgate Road site have so far won the backing of Councilwoman Maureen Lamb, who is concerned about the project's effects on the environ

ment and the community. She was unavailable for comment this week.

"It'll send out the wrong signals to all the developers, that the corridor is fair game to commercial development," said Mr. Lamb, who is no relation to the councilwoman.

Plans for a multi-use Circuit and District Court complex became public in May as both state and county officials grappled with the issue of where to locate new court facilities.

State officials have been eyeing the Bestgate Road property since January as the site for a new $15.7 million Annapolis District Court.

Maryland court officials want to consolidate operations by moving district court clerical staff, now scattered among several facilities, into the present Annapolis District Court quarters on Rowe Boulevard.

The county, meanwhile, had planned for years to replace the aging, cramped Circuit Court building in downtown Annapolis with a new building across the street from the Arundel Center. Court clerks and other support personnel would be housed across Calvert Street in what is now the Arundel Center, where space would open up after the county government's move to a new complex in nearby Parole.

nTC But County Executive Robert R. Neall and county court officials are not happy with that $16.3 million plan, because of limited acreage at the Calvert Street site and because it means court clerks would have to constantly shuttle documents between buildings.

Mr. Klasmeier said the county is negotiating with the Elks Lodge, but declined to give a cost estimate for the property.

The club has reason to want to move outside of the city limits, having found itself at odds with the city over membership policies at the all-male club.

In a move aimed partly at the lodge, the City Council passed a law denying liquor licenses to clubs with membership policies that discriminate. But the lodge convinced a Circuit Court judge in May to overturn the law.

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