Lawmakers urge development slowdown City, county asked to work together on Annapolis Neck

November 27, 1996|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel's state lawmakers are going to try to do something Annapolis and county officials haven't been able to do in nearly two decades -- find a solution to the growth problems in the Annapolis Neck Peninsula.

The delegation has sent letters to city and county officials asking them to approve a memorandum of understanding to halt development until a comprehensive plan is created. The letter is signed by Sen. John C. Astle and Dels. Michael E. Busch, Phillip D. Bissett and Virginia P. Clagett.

Residents of the area, who have fought hard against development, say they're thrilled.

"This is a huge step forward," said Barbara Samorajczyk, member of the Annapolis Neck Federation, a coalition of homeowners' organizations. "It's absolutely fantastic. For this state delegation to assume this kind of leadership, it was needed and it's going to make the difference."

The city and county have fought bitterly for years over annexation and land use. At times, they've even pledged to work together, only to threaten each other with lawsuits later.

Admitting that they face "no easy task," Busch says this is the first step in a long process toward finding a solution to ease congestion in the traffic-choked Forest Drive corridor.

"Quite honestly, it is an issue that [the delegation] has tried to stay out of," Busch said. "We don't normally get involved in issues of zoning or annexation. We realize we're throwing ourselves into a very volatile situation, but we see a need for an overall comprehensive transportation plan.

"We're not taking sides with the city or the county, we're just trying to mediate," he said.

Last night, the delegation met with Annapolis Neck residents to discuss the memorandum and begin negotiations.

"The ones normally who were responsible -- and I'm talking about city and county officials -- did nothing to take care of this problem, so others had to step in," said city Alderman Dean L. Johnson, a Ward 2 Independent who has voted against recent annexations by the city. "I would hope the city administration will accept this proposal."

Delegation leaders said in their Nov. 21 letter that they are concerned about either jurisdiction allowing any development in the area "premised on the construction of a relief road that connects to Aris T. Allen Boulevard." Lawmakers said there is no guarantee that access to the boulevard will ever be granted by the state.

While $2 million in state money has been committed to expanding Forest Drive to include a turn lane, "If the road expansion invites further development without a comprehensive transportation plan, the traffic problems will resurface," the letter warned.

Cooperation on all three levels of government will ensure that a solid road program is created to handle development, said Astle, who wanted to make clear that "the delegation is not putting a stop to all development. We can't do that."

But city and county officials are concerned that approving the memorandum could place some current projects in jeopardy, Busch said. For the city, that would include three proposals to develop parcels off Forest Drive:

A request by Crisland Corp. and Farmers National Land Corp. to build about 200 single-family homes on 103 acres of farmland near Bywater Road.

A request by Skipper Forest Drive Limited Partnership to build townhouses on 37.9 acres near Green Briar Lane and Forest Drive.

A request by Bayhouse Partners to build 45 single-family homes and some commercial development on 11.3 acres at Bay Ridge and Edgewood roads.

Some city officials said yesterday that they would be reluctant to approve the memorandum unless some amendments are added, such as extending the moratorium to include Parole, which is in the county.

"If you are dealing with the issues of overdevelopment and congestion for the regional area, Parole growth will have an adverse impact on us," said Alderman Carl O. Snowden, a Ward 5 Democrat. "If the real effort is to control growth and manage traffic, I would think we not do that by piecemeal or patchwork, but comprehensively.

"If they want my support, that is what it will have to include," Snowden said. "I don't think this is a fait accompli by a long shot. I don't think the memorandum will pass the way it is now."

That kind of reluctance is a sure sign of the long, hard fight ahead, said County Councilman William C. Mulford II, who represents part of Annapolis.

"Once again, it shows what you're dealing with," Mulford said. "If you propose amendments that are so unreasonable and so unacceptable, this is never going to happen. If that's the opening position they're taking, they're dooming this to failure."

Pub Date: 11/27/96

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