Annapolis council OKs McDonald's West St. location approved with some amendments

No golden arches

7-1 vote ends 7 months of debate

opposition dissipates

September 10, 1996|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

Ending seven months of debate last night, the Annapolis city council voted, 7-1, to allow the opening of a McDonald's restaurant in the historic first block of West Street -- but without the golden arches.

A store that has sat vacant for three years at 38 West St. will become a McDonald's express walk-up restaurant, with no bright red and yellow signs or drive-through windows.

The council's approval -- with few amendments, and a lone dissenting vote by Alderman Louise Hammond, who represents the historic district -- was the last hurdle for the fast-food chain.

"It's a major relief now that it's over," said Sam Brown, an Annapolis attorney representing McDonald's. "The vote shows the city's intent to work with the business community and to revitalize the first block of West Street.

"There's still some work to do, but we're pleased with the outcome," said Brown, referring to minor amendments made by council members -- including creation of a new sign that will "look more historic" and not include the famous arches.

City officials -- who will pump $3.2 million into renovating the ailing Inner West Street corridor over the next few years -- say McDonald's will help give the area an economic boost and perhaps spur businesses to invest there.

At first, many West Street business owners vehemently opposed the restaurant's application in the historic district because it did not fit into a revitalization plan that included more upscale restaurants and art galleries.

But as public hearings were held and McDonald's Corp. met little opposition from city officials, several owners said they gave up when it looked liked a done deal.

With little to do besides wait for the restaurant to open, business owners say they are trying to look at the situation from a more positive viewpoint.

"We're glad a new business is on the street," said Brian Cahalan, owner of the 49 West Coffeehouse. "I just wish it could have been something more unique, and I wish the money being made would stay here in town, but at least it is a new business for our street. I'm excited about that."

In other matters, the Annapolis Governmental Structure and Charter Revision Commission presented a 20-page report to the council last night recommending against adoption of a city manager form of government.

The question of whether to keep Annapolis' current weak-mayor system -- which allows the mayor one vote on the council but no veto power -- or delegate administrative duties to a manager and turn the mayor's job into a largely ceremonial one has been under study for more than a year.

Created by the council in March, the nine-member commission set out to study the possibility of amending the city's charter to place day-to-day government business in the hands of a non- elected city manager.

But according to the report, the commission believes that having an appointed city manager to oversee finances and recommend policy would represent "a new and problematic layer of bureaucracy in government."

The commission also recommended against giving the mayor any veto power and changing the mayor's role in relation to the city council.

Citing "complaints that aldermen, as individuals and collectively, often attempt to micro-manage the activities of various city departments," the commission in its written report also made recommendations to prohibit aldermen from interfering with administrative affairs and to subject violators to civil penalties.

The commission also recommended abolishing the mayor's two-term limit as well as abolishing the council's various three-member committees so that all future business comes before all nine members.

"We made recommendations that were aimed at improving the efficiency and responsiveness of the government," said commission chairman Richard Duden. "What the city council decides to do with those recommendations is up to them."

Pub Date: 9/10/96

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