Historic panel gives boost to courthouse plans ANNAPOLIS/SOUTH COUNTY -- Davidsonville * Edgewater * Shady Side * Deale

June 24, 1993|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

Preliminary plans for a new Anne Arundel County courthouse in downtown Annapolis have cleared a major hurdle by receiving approval from a commission that reviews construction projects in the city's Historic District.

The Historic District Commission voted 3-1 late Monday night to approve the size and scale of the $43 million courthouse and its relationship to the surrounding neighborhood after extracting a promise from the county and its architect to modify the final design to provide more open space and landscaping around the building.

That design will come before the commission for approval in about five months.

County officials, who said they needed approval to start the design process to be able to break ground in August 1994, were relieved and pleased by the commission's decision.

"The action taken by the commission gives us what we need in terms of concept approval," said Central Services Officer Jerome W. Klasmeier.

"This is the right thing to do. We're not going to put any schlock architecture out there," Mr. Klasmeier said.

But commission member Joan Abel, who voted against approval, said she regretted the outcome. "I don't think it will do anything for the livability of the city, and I'm very disappointed that this concept approval has passed," she said.

At a meeting two weeks ago, the commission affirmed the materials and the square footage of the building, which will house 18 courtrooms, and a plan to restore the historic 1824 court building. But the commission members expressed reservations about the extent of the building, which will take up most of the block bordered by Church Circle, and Franklin, South and Calvert streets.

At Monday's meeting, Ms. Abel and fellow commission member Michael Ricketts pressed the county's architect, Howard I. Melton, to show them a courthouse design that had two buildings with open space between them instead of the one large building that is planned.

Anticipating the commission's concerns, Mr. Melton had done such a sketch. But the design "doesn't function well as a courthouse," Mr. Melton said, noting that county officials had fTC said they wanted one building with a single entrance for security and efficiency.

A motion to study the multibuilding design further was defeated 3-2, with Mr. Ricketts and Ms. Abel in favor.

In approving the preliminary design, the commission asked the county to submit within two weeks a complete site plan that includes the additional open space.

The commission also requested that the design include several amenities, including burying all utility lines, investigating the possibility of using a city-owned parking lot on South Street for additional open space, and improving sidewalks and landscaping.

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