Annapolis businesses oppose fast food McDonald's seeks downtown permit

March 18, 1996|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

Ronald McDonald can take his golden arches elsewhere as far as downtown Annapolis business owners are concerned.

The McDonald's chain's permit application for a restaurant in the first block of West St., filed in February, has stirred protests from owners of nearby businesses, who worry that a fast-food restaurant wouldn't fit in the neighborhood of upscale small businesses and art galleries they are trying to develop.

"We've really tried to build this area up into a hometown kind of area, and McDonald's just doesn't seem to fit into that," said Carl D. Waters, a manager at the popular Ram's Head Tavern, whose microbrewery is almost directly across the street from the building McDonald's plans to use.

As opposition to the proposal builds, business owners say McDonald's is about to lose for a second time in its effort to open a restaurant in the city's Historic District.

"We chased them out of downtown 20 years ago when they tried to open up a place," said Gill Cochran, an Annapolis attorney whose office is less than 100 yards from the proposed site.

McDonald's failed in an effort to open a restaurant at the City Dock in the early 1970s, but rival Burger King managed to open a franchise farther up Main Street a few years later. That restaurant lost its franchise last year.

As a result of the opposition to Burger King on Main Street, the city zoning ordinance was changed to forbid fast-food restaurants in areas marked for the conservation business district, said Jac- queline Rouse, a planner for the city Planning and Zoning Department. Those areas include Dock Street, Main Street, Maryland Avenue and Market Space, Ms. Rouse said, but not the first block of West St. much to the dismay of West Street business owners.

Susan C. McDaniel, a marketing manager at McDonald's Corp., said the company hopes to win over its opponents by working with the community to address its concerns.

"We try to listen to our citizens and their viewpoints and try to incorporate their concerns into our plans because we want to be a good neighbor to them. That is our philosophy," she said.

West Street business owners aren't buying that.

"It's not that I don't like Egg McMuffins," said Mr. Waters of Ram's Head. "I just don't know that Annapolis needs another fast-food restaurant. In most cases, if you eat fast food, then that means you're always going somewhere or headed somewhere. We want people to come and stay when they visit our area."

Business people also say they worry that small restaurants would lose customers.

"Fast food, in general, tends to diminish the look of the historic district," said Diane Fraser Anderson, owner of the bistro Ciao! on West Street. "Why would we need a fast-food restaurant that would easily put small businesses out of business? There is a quaint, small-town atmosphere here, and I think there should be support for small businesses."

Other critics say they worry about teen-agers loitering nearby and about the trash that would be generated.

Alderman Louise Hammond, who represents the First Ward, said the planning commission and the city council will schedule public hearings on the issue before a decision on McDonald's permit application is made.

Pub Date: 3/18/96

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