Owner's plans for house start debate in Annapolis

September 29, 1992|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writer

An Annapolis landlord touched off a debate over one of the city's historic streets last night by proposing to rescue a ramshackle house from the wrecking ball and convert it into offices.

John Prann unveiled plans before the City Council to restore the vacant, dilapidated home he owns on South Street, across from the Circuit Courthouse.

His effort to save the home, now slated for demolition, was warmly received, but planning officials and at least one resident expressed concern that the street would become a business district.

A half-dozen houses line one side of South Street, beginning a residential neighborhood that stretches to Spa Creek.

The home owned by Mr. Prann was one of several zoned for professional use a decade ago when city planners recognized the area was changing. The courthouse spans the opposite side of the street, and Anne Arundel Medical Center is around the block.

Eileen P. Fogarty, the city's planning director, said the neighborhood was identified as being "at risk" in a long-range study on downtown Annapolis.

The study's consultants have recommended taking steps to keep the area residential, she said.

"This conversion to a professional office use could set a precedent for the remaining area, which is already under pressure," she said.

But she added that she did not oppose the application because the lot is zoned for offices.

Several council members pointed out that the report has not been finalized or approved. Alderman Ellen Moyer also questioned calling the street residential instead of a professional area.

"My impression of that street is that it's not residential," she said.

Larry Leka, who lives around the corner on Cathedral Street, disagreed. He said that two vacant homes on South Street were bought recently by families and that the offices could split up a residential block.

Mr. Prann, who has owned the home since 1943, needs the council's approval only because the property is smaller than allowed by city guidelines on professional offices.

A title examiner wants to lease at least one of the four planned offices and sublease the others.

Anthony F. Christhilf, attorney for Mr. Prann, said the house was subdivided into four separate apartments years ago and rented until the early 1980s.

It has been vacant since and needs up to $100,000 in renovations, Mr. Christhilf said.

Alderman John Hammond, who represents the downtown area, thanked Mr. Prann for his efforts to save the house from being demolished.

"I'm glad to see this project is moving forward," he said.

In other business, the council:

* Heard plans from the owners of Annapolis Convalescent Center on Bay Ridge Avenue in Eastport, who want to enlarge the lobby, enclose a screened porch and build a hallway to link pTC two wings.

* Discussed a proposal by Cellular One to install 9-foot antennas atop an 185-foot water tower owned by the city off Janwall Street.

The mobile phone company has promised to landscape the grounds.

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