Inner West fix-up runs into snags Design plan, funding for rundown corridor lacking, officials say

'Don't know what we want'

$3.2 million set aside for project that may cost $17 million

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

Annapolis city officials are gung-ho about a multimillion-dollar project to spruce up the rundown corridor of Inner West Street.

But they have a few problems. They don't have enough money, don't know where they're going to get it and really aren't sure what they want to do.

Council members had scheduled a hearing on the plan tonight and were pushing for a vote, but delayed the vote until next month to allow more time to study the proposals for revitalizing the seven-block stretch of West Street from Taylor Avenue to Church Circle.

They also said they feared the debate could deteriorate into the same kind of battle that delayed the effort to rebuild Main Street by two months and added $279,000 to the price tag.

At the heart of the debate is money. The city council has set aside $3.2 million in its capital budget for Inner West Street -- a far cry from the $17.6 million that an urban design company says is needed.

The more expensive plan includes:

Building a traffic circle at Taylor Avenue and West Street.

Widening and repaving sidewalks and roads.

Upgrading and placing utilities underground.

Improving street lights.

Improving Clay, West Washington and other side streets.

City officials say a more realistic price would be about $12 million, which would include everything but improvements to the side streets.

While all council members say swift action must be taken to improve West Street, they can't agree on how much to spend and haven't decided what it should look like.

Some say the city must choose a design that will be aesthetically pleasing, control increasing traffic on the street and attract new businesses to the area before deciding how much to spend.

The city "has no idea" about specific plans for West Street, said Alderman M. Theresa DeGraff, a Ward 7 Republican.

"It's not just pumping more money into it," she said. "We have not designed a circle yet, we don't know what we want the street to look like, we don't know what we want. I think there are some really nice ideas, but I don't think we can afford everything all at once."

Others said the money should come first.

"I don't think we can decide what plan we are going to do until we find adequate fundings we can rely on," said Alderman Ellen O. Moyer, a Ward 8 Democrat. "What we don't need is someone saying, 'Oh, the money isn't there. We can't do this.'

"What we need to do is research the funding process immediately because this is a 100-year project, and we better be doing this right."

City officials are debating suggestions to create a special tax district, go to the bond market or ask for state and federal funding. Some money might also come from private donations, they said.

Moyer suggested appointing someone to pursue grants and funding aggressively for West Street, but there has been no move to take such action.

Meanwhile, business leaders are getting anxious, said Alderman Carl O. Snowden who is demanding that the administration make good on a promise to move some city offices to West Street.

"I think we've had more than enough information on this," said Snowden, a Ward 5 Democrat who also is chairman of the council's finance committee.

"We've been analyzing this so much that we've reached a paralysis," he said. "We need to send a strong signal to the business community and to investors that we have made a commitment to West Street.

"If the city made a promise to do something, we should keep that promise," Snowden said. "Because quite frankly, some people have come to believe that it will never happen."

Pub Date: 11/18/96

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