Council plans new round on nonresidents Mayor reopens debate on whether outsiders can sit on city panel

Issue settled 2 months ago

In dispute is makeup of Annapolis Historic District Commission

December 16, 1996|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

A bill to ban nonresidents from serving on the Annapolis Historic District Commission has been introduced by Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins, less than two months after a divided city council voted to do just the opposite.

The move last week by Hopkins surprised and angered some of his colleagues, who noted that the residency issue was the flash point during the sometimes bitter debate among council members in October.

Tonight, the council will hold a public hearing on the mayor's bill.

"It took us two years to deal with that issue," said Alderman M. Theresa DeGraff, who co-sponsored the original legislation approved by a vote of 6-2. "It's unfortunate that now we have to rehash and reopen all those wounds. It was a very divisive and rancorous issue that I thought we had taken care of already.

"I don't know why [Hopkins] is doing this," said DeGraff, a Ward 7 Republican. "I wish he would just move on."

Hopkins, a Democrat and Annapolis native, defended his bill last week.

"I still believe that we have very talented and intelligent people in the city who could serve on the commission," he said. "The commission has been very successful ever since its creation, and I see no justification to open that membership up to people outside the city.

"I strongly believe that if you are a resident of Annapolis, you have a personal interest in anything affecting Annapolis," Hopkins said.

Efforts to clarify the Historic District Commission's powers came after more than a year of fighting over the renovation of Main Street, sidewalk cafes and fast-food restaurants. Critics of the commission say it wielded too much power.

Council members and preservationists fought over two bills that tried to redefine the commission's authority and preserve the group's integrity.

In heated arguments in June, the council voted to send DeGraff's bill back to the county Planning and Zoning Commission for further study and defeated a similar bill co-sponsored by Hopkins and Aldermen Louise Hammond, a Ward 1 Democrat, and Dean L. Johnson, a Ward 2 independent, and favored by commission members.

While both bills followed the state's requirements, council members said, DeGraff's bill differed mainly in that it allowed nonresidents to serve.

In October, the council voted on a third version of the DeGraff bill that expanded the commission from five members to seven, set term limits and raised the academic standards required of at least two commission members.

An amendment that would bar nonresidents on the commission died on a tie vote. The bill passed, with Hammond and Johnson opposed. Alderman Wayne C. Turner, a Ward 6 Republican, did not attend the meeting.

"This new bill sets up a battle between preservationists and members of the council again," said Alderman Carl O. Snowden, a Ward 5 Democrat who voted to allow nonresidents on the panel.

"But it also allows that nonresidency provision to be looked at independently. I may be persuaded to change my position on that," Snowden said.

But other aldermen do not understand the need to reopen the issue.

"The bill we approved does not require Mayor Hopkins to appoint nonresidents," said Alderman Ellen O. Moyer, the Ward 8 Democrat who co-sponsored the DeGraff bill. "It just allows him to do so. There's a big difference. I personally think we have more than enough talent inside the city to serve, but I think our bill vastly improved the commission.

For example, aldermen note, Hopkins' two new appointments to the commission are city residents and already involved in local history projects: Elizabeth R. Finkle, a social worker for the county and member of the Historic Annapolis Foundation; and Stacey Shorter, a research historian for the Maryland Commission on African-American History and Culture, based at the Banneker-Douglas Museum in Annapolis.

"The timing is wrong," Moyer said of Hopkins' bill. "We just went through all of this and I think he should have given everyone a little time to heal."

Pub Date: 12/16/96

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