Annapolis congestion discussed

May 24, 1994|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Sun Staff Writer

Annapolis business leaders last night urged the City Council to approve a package of bills designed to ease traffic congestion and preserve the quality of life in the city's downtown.

The package that was discussed at last night's public hearing includes six bills that would regulate bed-and-breakfast homes, restaurants, professional offices, parking and transportation.

"The worst system is the one we have now where nothing is certain," said Penny Chandler, executive director of the Greater Annapolis Chamber of Commerce.

The proposals would implement recommendations in the Ward One Sector Study, which the council adopted last July. Three conservation districts are proposed for the ward -- one for residences, one for businesses and one for professional offices.

The residential zone would target nine neighborhoods considered at risk because of heavy traffic, maintenance problems and nonconforming uses of land. The number of houses that could be rented would be limited in this zone.

The business zone would recognize existing commercial uses in four specific areas of the historic district and restrict the creation of new restaurants and bars in those areas.

Offices in the professional business zone would be recognized as legal uses, but new conversions to office space would be limited in those areas.

The legislation also would place restrictions on new restaurants -- they would have to close by midnight and be subject to a 50 percent limit on revenue from sales of alcoholic beverages.

A proposal regulating the establishment of new bed-and-breakfasts homes would limit houses to five guest rooms, require owners to provide parking passes for guests and limit the number of bed and breakfasts that could locate within a given block.

"The legislation is a result of a definite consensus," said Sharon Russian, head of the Annapolis Business Coalition.

In addition to the business leaders, the package of legislation also was endorsed by the city's planning and zoning commission. Will Scott, a representative of the commission, said the proposed legislation would preserve the status quo. "This is a way to stabilize the community," he said.

But Ron Hollander, an Annapolis resident and owner of several rental properties, told the council that he strongly opposes the creation of the special residential district that would limit multi-family houses.

"I don't understand why you're against renters," he asked. "What is wrong with a person who wants to rent because he can't afford to buy?"

He said the city has sufficient laws to ensure that rental properties inspected and adequately maintained.

A committee of residents, business owners, professional planners and city officials spent more than three years helping draft the Ward 1 legislation.

Eileen Fogarty, director of the city's planning an zoning department, said the committee found parking and transportation to be a key concern to both residents and businesses.

The committee found that nearly half of Annapolis' parking meters are occupied by employees who work downtown and that the city has granted more residential parking permits than there are spaces.

"We have a problem and everyone is going to have to pay to resolve the problem," said Jack Lengyel, one of the committee members.

The committee has recommended doubling the parking meter fees and fines for parking violations and instituting a free shuttle to carry visitors and employees from the Naval Academy's football stadium parking lot to the downtown area.

Alderman Samuel Gilmer, a Ward 3 Democrat, questioned how the city could afford to offer a free shuttle service when it will be forced to cut back city bus service due to a revenue shortfall this year.

But Paul Pearson, a local hotelier, suggested the committee's recommendations on transportation did not go far enough.

"All we've done is nibble around the edges," he said.

He believes the city should explore a monorail system to carry workers and visitors to downtown.

The council is scheduled to vote on the package next month.

Alderman Louise Hammond, a Ward 1 Democrat, urged passage of the package, which her husband and predecessor had introduced in the council several months ago.

"Hopefully, we can adopt these ordinances without undoing all of the compromises that have been made," she said.

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