Council says no to seaside dining

November 15, 1994|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,Sun Staff Writer

Annapolis seafood lovers interested in buying a fish taco or a grilled oyster sandwich from a boat at the City Dock will have to patronize more conventional restaurants for a while: seaside dining there is not going to materialize any time soon.

The City Council voted 6-2 last night against a bill sought by Annapolis dweller T. F. "Ted" Biddle that would amend the city code so that fish could be sold from boats at the City Dock.

Last year, Ms. Biddle bought a 1941-vintage, 37-foot vessel she renamed Rights of Man, on which she had hoped to sell fresh and processed seafoods from the Chesapeake Bay and around the world.

The council opposed the vending operation, arguing that it would harm the historic character of downtown Annapolis and damage the restaurant businesses there.

Ms. Biddle argued just the opposite, and vowed to keep up her fight -- even if it means going to court.

"I have to sue them," Ms. Biddle, 32, said of the City Council members who opposed her. "I can sue them as individuals, not as a council," she said.

The California native said she has been trying to set up shop for two years, at a cost to her investors of more than $20,000. A yearlong lease for a slip at the dock costs about $11,000, she said, adding that she was willing to pay four times that amount.

Most City Council members were skeptical that her venture would enhance the town and said her business could lead to many more like it at City Dock, turning the historic area into an outdoor food court.

"This is not the direction I see this town going to," said Ward 6 Alderman Wayne C. Turner. "We want an orderly, friendly atmosphere where people can walk and have a good time. We want trees and benches."

Ward 1 Alderman Louise Hammond agreed.

"The Public Works Department has given us a whole list of headaches that would be opened by this," she said. "This is not supported by businesses in the downtown area."

Ward 5 Alderman Carl O. Snowden and Ward 8's Ellen O. Moyer supported the proposal. Even if council members objected to Ms. Biddle's operation in particular, a vote against the measure was a blow to all outdoor vending operations downtown, they argued.

"There was a time when fresh seafood was sold from vessels in downtown Annapolis," Mr. Snowden said.

"There was a time when you could buy flowers off a truck downtown," Ms. Moyer said. "By modifying the peddlers license we could allow the city to move forward with other kinds of seasonal produce that could be sold."

That argument did not convince most council members, including Alderman Dean Johnson, a Ward 2 Independent who had agreed to co-sponsor the bill to change zoning regulations at the City Dock. Mr. Johnson voted against his own measure at last night's meeting.

In other matters:

* Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins killed a bill he was planning to introduce last night that would have done away with the special election system to fill all midterm vacancies on the City Council.

Mr. Hopkins originally had proposed filling those unanticipated vacancies with appointments by Democratic or Republican central committees, similar to other systems at the county, state and federal levels. But his idea encountered criticism from public advocacy groups such as Common Cause, which called it an undemocratic denial of citizens' voting rights.

* A measure that would have expanded the Historic District Commission from five to seven members and changed the membership requirements for that body was put off indefinitely.

The commission and the City Council are at odds over the final details of the reconstruction project for Main Street, and Mr. Hopkins will not take up the measure to change the commission until that dispute is settled, said City Administrator Michael D. Mallinoff.

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