Judge to hear arguments today on 103-acre annexation County, city interests at odds over proposal

October 23, 1997|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

An Anne Arundel County circuit judge will hear arguments today that will help determine the future of a pair of county and citizen lawsuits trying to stop the city of Annapolis from annexing 103 acres of the Annapolis Neck peninsula.

County officials, two peninsula residents and two civic groups are hoping Judge Eugene M. Lerner will rule in their favor and bar the annexation without hearing details of the cases.

City officials, however, want the cases dismissed so the development can proceed.

Last November, the city annexed a 103.6-acre tract off Bywater Road near Forest Drive, owned by the Farmers National Land Corp. in Falls Church, Va. The Chrisland Corp., in Fairfax, Va., wants to build 200 single-family homes on the site.

Development on the peninsula is a touchy subject, as Forest Drive and Bay Ridge Road, the main roads there, grow increasingly clogged.

"How can you possibly permit more homes?" said Barbara Samorajczyk, vice president of the Annapolis Neck Peninsula Federation.

The county would not permit it, but apparently the city would. The city council annexed the property at the developers' request so the project could go forward.

However, those plans have been on hold since spring, when the county sued, said Jonathan A. Hodgson, attorney for the two corporations.

The county contends that the annexation illegally created two islands of county land bordered on three sides by the city and on the other by a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. Sarah Iliff, attorney for the county, said a state law bars annexations that create unincorporated "islands" surrounded by a municipality.

People who live in those pockets lose certain rights because they are cut off from their government, she said. For example, the city might provide some services to those areas as a practical matter, but the citizens are not city residents and could neither vote nor influence city decision-makers.

Members of the Annapolis Neck Federation and the Bywater Church and Crab Creek Association are arguing in a separate suit that additional traffic headaches will mar the quality of their members' lives.

The city is arguing that neither the county nor the residents have any right to intervene in a matter between property owners and the city.

"The property owner asked to be annexed," said Paul G. Goetzke, city attorney.

Perhaps the only thing the warring parties agree on is that the issues behind the disputed annexation will not be settled in a courtroom.

"The fact that we are involved in this shows the need for an appropriate look at city-county boundaries," said Thomas C. Andrews, former county land use officer and newly appointed county chief administrator. "We really need to sit down with the city and deal with this once and for all."

Hodgson, a former Annapolis attorney, agreed: "The solution to this fight is not litigation. It is better intergovernmental communication, a shared vision for growth in that corridor."

Pub Date: 10/23/97

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