Boathouse plan angers community Opponents call structure ugly

September 13, 1992|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

A Severn River resident who wants to build a three-story boathouse on Clements Creek to shelter an 80-foot yacht is weathering a storm of protests from neighbors.

Opponents say that the Quonset-style structure proposed by Dr. William J. Cirksena to house his vintage, 1947 Trumpy yacht will damage the river's scenic vista.

"It would be a dramatic eyesore," said Jim Martin, president of the Severn River Association, which represents about 100 neighborhoods around the watershed. "That boathouse would be so large that you could see it all the way down to the old Severn River Bridge," four miles away.

Dr. Cirksena, who owns one of the first two yachts built by the renowned Trumpy & Son Yacht Yard in Eastport, counters that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

"Some people look down the creek, and they don't want to see any piers or houses. It's my view that it's the mix of things that makes the water beautiful."

Dr. Cirksena, a kidney specialist, bought the all-wood, motorized yacht for about $130,000 a decade ago. The yacht is insured by Lloyds of London for $750,000, though the doctor estimated the actual cost of replacing it at $2 million to $3 million.

After spending 10 years restoring the vessel in Florida, Dr. Cirksena sought state approval last winter to build a boathouse to shelter it from the weather. Constant exposure is destroying the high-gloss finish on the woodwork and causing other sections to rot, he said.

The boathouse would be 100 feet long, 28 feet high and 40 feet wide and would be built at the end of Dr. Cirksena's 200-foot pier at the mouth of Clements Creek. Constructed of galvanized steel and off-white vinyl, it would cost $30,000.

Frank Dawson, chief of the state Department of Natural Resources' Tidal Wetlands Division, said the state routinely approves boathouse requests. "To my knowledge, we have not denied one," he said, adding that he expects to make a recommendation to the state Board of Public Works by Sept. 21.

Mr. Martin and other opponents, however, believe the size of this boathouse and its location on one of the state's nine "scenic" rivers will prove the exception. They contend that the proposed building is equivalent in size to eight billboards and would violate the state Scenic and Wild Rivers Act, which, they say, protects the Severn from unsightly development. The General Assembly designated the Severn a "scenic river" in 1971.

"They almost have to" deny the request, Mr. Martin said. "If this were approved, it will be the death of the Scenic Rivers Act."

The state itself is beginning to question if it should continue its blanket approval of boathouses. Citing their proliferating numbers and their potential to change the character of a waterway, officials are considering regulations that would prohibit new boathouses.

But those draft regulations have not been approved and will not affect Dr. Cirksena's application, Mr. Dawson added.

The doctor said he has been unable to find a private or commercial boathouse between Maryland and Florida that is large enough to shelter the yacht, which has three bedrooms, a stateroom, galley and separate crew's quarters. As a result, he been forced to moor the boat in Miami and Fort Lauderdale every winter for nearly a decade, he said.

With his children entering junior high school, Dr. Cirksena said, his family cannot keep making the annual voyage south. That means building a boathouse closer to home or selling the yacht, he said.

"We cannot leave it exposed to the elements year round, and what's the point of having a boat if you have to keep it in Florida all the time?" Dr. Cirksena asked.

If he does sell, Dr. Cirksena said, the new owners probably wilrelocate the boat, permanently removing a bit of Annapolis' heritage. The Trumpy family, which had built PT boats during World War II, moved its famous shipyard from New Jersey to Eastport in 1947. The yard closed in 1972.

Dr. Cirksena is not without supporters. Herb Zorn, an Eastport resident and founder of the Chesapeake Bay chapter of the Antique and Classic Boat Society, said the Cirksena boat is "an outstanding example of a Trumpy" and needs to be protected.

However, he said, a boathouse should match the quality of the boat. "If you are putting a beautiful boat in a barrel, it doesn't make sense," Mr. Zorn said.

Mr. Dawson said he brought Dr. Cirksena and his opponents -- including residents of the Saefern, Epping Forest and The Downs communities -- together to hammer out their differences last week.

Dr. Cirksena said he will consider other designs if his neighbors have any suggestions, "as long as it's still big enough for the boat."

Dr. Cirksena "is basically saying he wants the community to sacrifice the splendor of the Severn River to subsidize the high cost of maintaining his boat," Mr. Martin said.

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