Chesapeake Bay Foundation's move Maritime preservation: Community hurts itself in fighting environmental group.

December 05, 1997

EASTPORT, an Annapolis community that has thrived by virtue of its proximity to the Chesapeake Bay, does not want the Chesapeake Bay Foundation as a neighbor. The Eastport Civic Association has gone to court to prevent the conversion of a 33,000-square-foot warehouse into an office building to house the environmental organization. The community group's effort may prove counterproductive.

At issue is Annapolis' Maritime Zoning and Economic Strategy. It was adopted more than a decade ago. The ordinance created four zoning districts to protect views of the water and limit shoreline uses to maritime-related activities. The law's purpose was to encourage the expansion of boatyards, marinas and boating businesses, and discourage condominiums, offices and restaurants in certain areas.

The community association fears that if the CBF, now housed in four different locations, moves to the vacant Trumpy Boatyard, maritime zoning will be eviscerated and an onslaught of commercialism will follow. By rigorously enforcing the zoning, the civic group believes it can save Eastport's maritime flavor.

While zoning has encouraged boat builders and sailmakers to stay in Eastport, the code is no guarantee they will remain in business. Many landlords have maritime tenants on month-to-month leases. Others have raised rents, forcing boat-related businesses to move. Landlords want to realize the high rents that offices, restaurants and shops willingly pay.

By expanding the definition of what constitutes a maritime-related business, the community might use market forces to its advantage. Marine biology and bay-related research organizations that need access to water apparently can afford the rents. These groups would tie up the research boats they use, preserving a maritime ambience in Eastport.

The CBF is considering buying the 33-acre Bay Ridge Inn, just south of the state capital, as its new headquarters. Eastport probably has lost a natural ally in opposing waterfront gentrification. Preventing groups like the CBF from using warehouses and docks may serve only to accelerate Eastport's transformation into another City Dock -- lined with bars and restaurants whose only link to the water are clever names and cute decorations.

Pub Date: 12/05/97

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