County disputes annexed land Suit seeks to reverse Annapolis' acquisition of 103.6 acres

March 25, 1997|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County has gone to court to try reverse the annexation of 103.6 acres off Bywater Road near Forest Drive by the city of Annapolis.

The county contends that the annexation illegally created two islands of county land bordered on three sides by the city and on the other side by a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay.

The suit, filed Friday in Anne Arundel Circuit Court, comes four months after the city council annexed the land -- commonly referred to as the Crisland property -- for a proposed development of 200 single-family homes.

City Attorney Paul G. Goetzke said the city had "met all the legal requirements for annexation."

State law forbids annexations that create unincorporated "islands" surrounded by a municipality.

The law also requires that at least 25 percent of property owners and eligible voters residing in the area to be annexed approve the annexation.

"The city is a volunteer army; we don't draft anyone," Goetzke said. "People ask us to be annexed, not the other way around. We believe we're on firm legal ground here."

As has been true in many other cases over the years, the only property owners involved are large corporations. In this case, they are Farmer's National Corp., which owns the land, and Crisland, the developer that plans to buy it.

Residents of Bembe Beach Road filed a similar suit in February in an effort to block the annexation of 12.8 acres owned by Mericare Associates Limited Partnership for a proposed six-story senior citizen complex. The case was dismissed because the residents had waited too long to sue.

The battle over the Crisland property erupted in May, when Farmers National and Crisland Corp., the property owners and co-defendants in the suit, applied to be annexed into the city.

County objections

County officials objected, and several homeowners organizations testified against the annexation at several city council hearings. The council voted 6-1 to annex the property in November but pledged to work with the county to stop development on the peninsula until a road could be built to relieve traffic problems in the congested Forest Drive corridor.

"We've been negotiating in good faith with the county to correct the problems in that area, but this really dampens the spirit of cooperation between us," said Alderman Carl O. Snowden, a Democrat who represents the area near the Crisland property. Snowden suggested that the county purchase the property if it wanted to keep the land undeveloped, but county officials said the issue goes beyond development.

The county contends that city sewer systems and emergency services are not capable of handling the proposed development of the site.

Burden on city

The creation of the islands within municipal boundaries also would burden the city because residents in the enclave would pay county taxes but use city facilities and services, the county argues.

"My position on annexations is that I have not supported any of them," said County Councilman William C. Mulford II, who represents the Annapolis area. "We have to clear up what's going on with these annexations because I really think there is a question of law in this 'enclave issue' that needs to be addressed and resolved."

Pub Date: 3/25/97

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