Planning board vote expected on housing

Developer wants to build 114 units on former hospital site

January 15, 2002|By Amanda J. Crawford | Amanda J. Crawford,SUN STAFF

Having reviewed the first major project proposed for Annapolis' historic district in decades, the Planning Commission is expected to vote tonight on the 114-unit development planned for the downtown site vacated by Anne Arundel Medical Center.

In its third meeting on the proposal by Virginia-based Madison Homes, the commission is set to decide whether to approve the Acton's Landing project. The Board of Appeals and the Historic Preservation Commission also must approve it before the developer can obtain building permits.

"I think this is a good project as it stands - it has been thoughtfully developed, there is a consistent logic to the design that has been proposed and it is definitely integrated into the fabric of the community," said commission Chairman Wilford Scott.

He said the panel might elect to hear more public testimony at tonight's meeting before deliberating on the project and voting.

More than 20 people testified about the project Thursday. Several endorsed the project, and a handful called on the commission to send the developers back to the drawing board.

Members of a group of residents who calls themselves Acton's Landing Area Residents Monitor (ALARM) and their attorney complained that the development was too dense - advocating 90 to 100 units for the 4.5-acre site - and questioned the legality of some determinations made by the city.

If the project is approved as is, ALARM leader William Kardash said, it would be "something we and our grandchildren will regret forever."

Joseph F. Devlin, ALARM's attorney, said he felt the city was remiss in allowing the developer to classify its 26 senior units - which are interspersed with 58 other condominium apartments - as an "institution for the care of the aged," a designation that allows them to have more units on the property.

Devlin also questioned the city's rationale for not taking possession of a half-acre that the developer has planned to turn over to the city after converting it into a park.

A 1936 deed instructed that the property should be turned over to the city if the hospital ceased to operate. If the parcel were not included in the proposal, the developer would have to reduce the site's density, Devlin said.

Several other residents said they were pleased with the development and the way it fits into the community.

Mike Miron, the city's economic development director, testified that the development would add about $400,000 to the city's tax base.

"I look forward to my property values going up as a result of this project," resident Carroll H. Hynson Jr. told the commission.

Sandy Cohen, president of the Murray Hill Residents Association, said her group had endorsed the plan last month.

The Ward One Residents Association's board also voted to support the plan, but supported a reduction in the number of units, said Norman Finkle, a board member.

Acton's Landing is slated to include 26 senior-restricted condominium apartments, 58 other condominium apartments, 15 townhouses, a duplex and 13 single-family homes.

Only four of seven commission members are expected to vote on the project. Three votes in favor would send the project to the Board of Appeals for the next layer of approvals.

Scott, the commission chairman, said the city attorney recommended that the other three members not vote, since they were absent from the developer's presentation Wednesday.

The Planning Commission will meet at 7:30 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall on Duke of Gloucester Street.

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