Eastport fence dispute before city panel again

Condominium group wants iron barrier

April 01, 1999|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

A dispute that has simmered for more than two years in a scenic Annapolis community is coming to a head -- again.

The source of contention -- a simple wrought-iron fence.

Residents of Shearwater Condominium, a community of 94 apartments facing Spa Creek in Eastport, want to erect a barrier to ward off the outsiders they say take their parking spots and dump trash in their neighborhood. But their neighbors say the proposed 6-foot-high fence will divide the community and obstruct their view of the water.

The condominium association has been seeking zoning approval for the fence since 1997 without much luck and will be back before the city planning commission tonight. Their neighbors are preparing for round two of a fight both sides say will have a long-term impact on their quality of life.

"It changes the complexion of a community," said Richard Weaver, of the Hawkins Cove Homeowners Association, a group of five property owners next to Shearwater that has fought the plans. "We try very hard in Eastport to be a contiguous community, and we would like to keep it that way. Any kind of barrier tends to put things up that are artificial."

But Michael Dufton, president of the condominium association, said the Shearwater residents just want to control access to the property they pay to maintain.

"It's not an issue of exclusivity at all," Dufton said. "There is no consideration that this is private property. We own and maintain the roads through the property, the parking areas, the trash facilities."

Dufton said the fence plans were developed two years ago when the condominium association began seeking ways to solve their parking and trash problems. Visitors often took up the community's limited number of parking spaces. Some even parked in residents' spaces and called for a water taxi to pick them up from the condominium's pier and take them to downtown Annapolis.

"During the Christmas boat parade one year, we had to hire a guard to actually sit at the entrance to Shearwater because [the parking lot] was filling up before people were coming home from work," Dufton said.

He said contractors working on projects nearby frequently dump their refuse in the community's trash bins.

The association voted overwhelmingly in early 1997 to fence out their problems, and the city planning and zoning department issued the building permit in March 1997. Neighbors complained to the city Board of Appeals, arguing that the developers of Shearwater had promised they would leave 30 percent of the property as open space, and the board agreed.

Shearwater residents appealed to the county Circuit Court, but were rejected. In February 1998, the condominium association filed another application with the planning and zoning department but withdrew it months later before a public hearing. Two months ago, they tried again.

Jon Arason, director of the city planning and zoning department, said though Shearwater is supposed to keep 30 percent of its property as open space, "It doesn't mean public open space."

"I don't believe they have any obligation to have any public access onto it," Arason said. "But it's been open space for many, many years, and that's how people in the area have come to view that."

Dufton said the association has offered a compromise; a gate at the front entrance and a 6-foot fence on each side of the gate that does not extend all the way around the property and would not block neighbors' view of the water. The gate would at least limit cars entering and leaving the community and solve the residents' parking problem, he said.

"I'm glad there is a compromise, but it still doesn't do any good," said Stephen Hustvedt, secretary of Boucher Landing Homeowners Association, who has opposed the fence. "And it's not a barrier because people can just get around it from the side. I'm just baffled."

Pub Date: 4/01/99

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