Two visions of Annapolis In remaking historic commission, downtown must be protected.

April 10, 1996

TWO VASTLY DIFFERENT bills rewriting the responsibilities of the Annapolis Historic District Commission are before the Annapolis City Council. Both are designed to bring Annapolis' commission into conformity with modifications made last year to the state law on such review boards. The political battle over these bills deals with two different visions of the city as much as it does the powers governing historic architecture review.

After 300 years, Annapolis remains a charming place to live and visit. Much of the reason is because the city has retained its historic appearance and intimate scale. Preservation has served the community well, and a continuing high degree of vigilance is needed to safeguard the historic district's ambience.

As Maryland's state capital and home to the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis will always attract its share of tourists. Its location on the Chesapeake Bay, equidistant from Baltimore and Washington, will also bring people to visit and spend money. In such an atmosphere, commerce and business flourishes. As a )) result, there will be constant development pressure to modify or expand buildings in the historic district. A strong commission is needed to deal with such demands.

The first bill, introduced in February, is narrowly focused but would augment the considerable powers of the historic commission. Sponsored by Mayor Al Hopkins and Aldermen Louise Hammond and Dean Johnson, it would give the commission power to regulate signs and displays visible from the street and review any exterior structural changes, even though they might not be visible from the street.

The second bill, recently introduced and co-sponsored by five council members, is a more comprehensive rewriting. It calls for expanding the commission's membership from five to seven members, specifies certain qualifications for members and gives the commission powers to review structures outside Annapolis' historic downtown. The bill contains an unnecessary provision to allow residents from outside the city to sit on the commission -- a case of representation without taxation.

In whatever legislation it adopts, the council must take the long view and ensure that the historic commission can continue to do its job.

Pub Date: 4/10/96

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