Downtown plan draws fire at Annapolis hearing ANNAPOLIS/SOUTH COUNTY--Davidsonville * Edgewater * Shady Side * Deale

May 18, 1993|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writer

Dozens of residents and merchants expressed reservations last night about a long-range plan charting the future of Annapolis' historic downtown.

Some among the more than 60 people attending a public hearing on the Ward One Sector Study called the plan "elitist" and "exclusionary."

Others raised questions about specific recommendations, such as replacing metered parking at the harbor with another garage, reversing downtown traffic patterns and creating a separate authority to manage the commercial district.

A committee of business leaders and residents spent nearly three years wrangling over the 300-page blueprint for the future of Maryland's capital. The three dozen members of the committee had at least as many opinions on what the historic district should look like in the 21st century.

In December, the committee reached a hard-fought consensus on the plan, which has been endorsed by the city's Planning and Zoning Commission and the Ward One Residents Association.

While crediting the committee's work, residents and business owners raised concerns about specific sections of the plan last night and the blueprint's philosophical underpinnings.

Leslie Stanton, a longtime resident of Cornhill Street, said he was "disgruntled, disappointed and angry" that the plan ignores the city's blacks. There are no proposals to encourage more black-owned businesses and no acknowledgment that large numbers of black residents have been moving out of downtown, he said.

Mr. Stanton's concerns were echoed by others, including Leonard Blackshear, who is spearheading an effort to build a statue in Annapolis in memory of Alex Haley, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Roots." He pointed out that blacks owned businesses and homes downtown before the Civil War.

Spencer Hopkins, owner of Hopkins Furniture on Main Street, suggested that the city buy a lot on Rowe Boulevard being sold by Lodge 622 of the Elks to intercept traffic coming into the congested downtown area.

Other changes were suggested to refine the report, which seeks to balance the interests of the residents and merchants in downtown Annapolis. Craig Purcell, a downtown architect, questioned why the study left out the reasons for the city's ordinance limiting building size.

Resident Robert H. Campbell called the entire plan "a formula for disaster," arguing that it would create both a downtown "run by boards and committees" and an "elitist" environment by driving out renters.

Jeff Bishop, vice president of St. John's College, disagreed, calling the plan "an important first step for Annapolis."

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