Battle to continue on Acton's Landing

Residents group to present plan for scaled-down project

March 05, 2002|By Amanda J. Crawford | Amanda J. Crawford,SUN STAFF

As the Annapolis Board of Appeals continues its hearings tonight on the proposed redevelopment of the former downtown hospital site, a group of vocal residents opposed to the Acton's Landing project will continue to make their case for a scaled-down version.

Acton's Landing Area Residents' Monitor, a loosely organized but well-funded group of nearby residents known as ALARM, is expected to take center stage tonight as its attorney calls witnesses and presents an alternative plan for the 4 1/2 -acre site. The redevelopment of the former Anne Arundel Medical Center property is considered the most significant project in the historic district in decades.

As supporters of the project push for its swift approval - fearing that more objectionable projects lie in wait if the proposal is derailed - ALARM is asking the board to make changes in the proposal that has been working its way through the planning department and has been debated by community groups for more than two years.

"What goes on this site should be something that everyone should be proud of," said ALARM attorney Joseph F. Devlin. "If it takes a few more weeks to get it right, that's what should be done."

ALARM will present an alternative plan at the hearing tonight that reduces the density on the townhouse and single-family home portion of the site. The group will propose scrapping most of the townhouses in favor of duplexes and single-family homes - which it says would be more fitting with the surrounding Murray Hill community - and adding more green space, said group spokesman William Kardash.

Alan J. Hyatt, the attorney representing Madison Homes, the developer of the site, called the group's alternative plan "inappropriate" and said that he would fight its submission.

Hyatt pointed out that before submitting its final proposal of condominiums, townhouses and single-family homes, the developer reduced the number of units from 139 to 114. He said that any additional reduction in units could endanger the project's economic viability.

He also noted that the site is zoned for professional office use and that the developer could choose to redevelop the existing buildings for nonresidential uses without going through as extensive a review process.

"If a very small portion of the community is successful in derailing the project, there is the risk that it will be used for other than residential purposes," Hyatt said. "We've been working with the numbers and the number of units from the beginning until now and, really, there is little if any room to reduce units at this point."

Project supported

Sandy Cohen, president of the Murray Hill Residents Association, said that the project enjoys widespread community support. She said she fears that any compromise between ALARM and the developers could mean the loss of concessions favored by others in the community that were "hard won" during years of review.

She said she has been surprised by ALARM's prominent role in the hearings and said she hopes that there will be more time for "broader public comment" soon.

Kardash, who lives in the historic Acton's Hall, said his group formed because members felt their viewpoints were not being expressed by the existing community groups. While only a few members wish to be identified publicly, he said ALARM includes more than 40 families and has collected more than $30,000 for its cause. About 25 people showed up at a meeting Saturday at his home, he said.

`Not all rich guys'

"It is a much larger group than a lot of people would like to believe," Kardash said. "And they are not all rich guys who live on the water."

While Devlin and Kardash leave open the possibility of an appeal to Circuit Court if the development plan is not altered, they say that ALARM is not out to stop the project.

"We don't want to kill the project," Kardash said. "We want to make sure what is built is right."

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