Proposal aims for simpler annexes

Allows for approval by simple majority, not by two-thirds

February 11, 2002|By Amanda J. Crawford | Amanda J. Crawford,SUN STAFF

Nine months after the previous Annapolis city council narrowly rejected the annexation of an affluent waterfront community, the new council will consider legislation to make the process easier by reducing the votes needed to annex from six to five.

Supporters of the proposed ordinance, to be introduced today, say the change would put the city in line with state law - in time for two annexation petitions, which the council expects to review soon.

According to city attorney Paul G. Goetzke, who said he recommended that the council make the change three years ago, state law says that annexations should be approved "in accordance with the usual requirements and practices" of that body. In Annapolis, most legislation requires the approval of a simple majority, or five of the nine-member council. City code requires a two-thirds majority to annex, or six votes.

Last year's vote on the long-debated annexation of the 452-unit Villages of Chesapeake Harbour brought the issue to the forefront when the measure failed initially despite having the votes of a five-member majority. Sensing the potential for a legal challenge, however, former Alderman Herbert H. McMillan, who first voted in favor of annexation, reopened the issue and changed his vote to allow the legislation to fail with four votes in favor.

Ward 7 Alderman Michael A. Fox, the co-sponsor of the proposed ordinance whose ward would have included Chesapeake Harbour, said the "confusion" about the annexation vote influenced his decision to try to change city code to allow a simple majority to approve annexations.

Of the six-vote, two-thirds majority requirement on the books, Fox said: "I have seen where it hurt us, but I haven't seen where it helped us."

Alderman Louise Hammond, who voted against annexing Chesapeake Harbour, said she would oppose the change in annexation procedure.

"I think annexations are serious business," she said. "It is a good idea to require a two-thirds vote."

At its meeting tonight, the council will begin preliminary review of the annexation of the Bembe Beach community. Another annexation petition for a part of Hudson Street is expected to be presented to the council soon.

Chesapeake Harbour and the city are engaged in a legal battle over nearly $1.8 million paid by community residents pending annexation. In a 1984 agreement, the community's developer agreed to a deal under which residents would get city water for twice the normal rate and pay into a fund that the city could keep if the community decided not to annex. Since the city council, not Chesapeake Harbour residents, rejected the annexation deal that was before them in May - which originally proposed a 10-year city tax waiver for current residents - the city should return the money to the community, Chesapeake Harbour attorney Sara H. Arthur said yesterday.

A trial date has not been set in the case filed by Chesapeake Harbour in July and pending before Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.

Arthur said she suspects the community would not pursue annexation again, unless the city initiates it.

Mayor Ellen O. Moyer, who supported the Chesapeake Harbour annexation, said there has not been a move by her administration to reopen annexation talks with the community.

A vote on the proposed legislation to change the council's annexation procedure has not yet been scheduled.

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

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