Annapolis Neck development plan to be debated

County officials, residents to testify at council meeting

Anne Arundel

February 03, 2003|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Residents from the Annapolis Neck and nearby communities are expected to turn out in force at the Anne Arundel County Council meeting tonight to offer testimony about a much-debated development proposal that would dictate the pattern of development in the area for the next decade.

Contention over the document has intensified recently as elected officials and neighborhood activists scramble to figure out what data county officials used to determine future growth patterns. Some argue that the county should take advantage of more recent census and traffic data to revise the plan, which has languished, untouched, for several years.

"How did they come up with the plan, and what is its net impact?" asked Councilwoman Barbara D. Samorajczyk, a Democrat from Annapolis who disputes the accuracy of the planning proposal.

The plan also covers a piece of property that has been the subject of continuing local dispute: a 54-acre parcel on Bestgate Road near Westfield Shoppingtown where Robert and Michael DeStefano want to build condominiums, offices and shops.

County officials said that the Annapolis Neck development plan does not differ significantly from a report produced by an advisory committee of residents three years ago.

"Overall, the plan includes the policies that were idealized by the community," said Planning Officer Joseph Rutter, whom County Executive Janet S. Owens hired recently to reorganize the Planning and Zoning Department.

Rutter said he reviewed the development proposal and met with Samorajczyk to discuss her concerns about traffic data and advisory panel proposals that weren't adopted. Last week, Rutter said that residents were advisers and that the county doesn't do comprehensive rezoning by "plebiscite."

Council Chairwoman Cathleen M. Vitale said last week that she shares some of Samorajczyk's concerns, including reported discrepancies in plan maps. Vitale said testimony at the council meeting - by county planners as well as residents - will play an important role in the council's final vote.

"It will be beneficial to hear from all of them at the same time so that we can put all of the pieces together," said Vitale, a Severna Park Republican.

Samorajczyk said last week that she might ask council members to delay approval of the zoning legislation, which is separate from the planning legislation, until summer so that traffic data can be updated. She also said she might introduce "many pages" of amendments to the planning bill to better reflect resident concerns.

Another source of debate in the plan the Bestgate property. The DeStefanos have stepped up efforts to amend the zoning legislation to allow for denser development. Crownsville residents have been fighting high-density zoning for years.

"It boils down to the people having a say in their government," said Don Yeskey, president of the Generals Highway Council of Civic Associations. "There is one common position among residents, and that is that the property should remain residential."

Michael DeStefano, president of Sturbridge Homes, said that the property, sandwiched between industrial and commercial lots, should have mixed-use commercial zoning. He called residential zoning "impractical."

DeStefano, who stated in June that he would build townhouses at the site, said he changed his mind when a deal to sell the property fell through at the last minute. When he learned that Owens planned to reintroduce the legislation - she pulled it last summer for fear it would complicate redevelopment plans for Parole - he decided to take one last shot at a zoning change.

DeStefano wants to create a village-type development he said would include 70 percent housing, 20 percent retail space and 10 percent office space.

Asked whether he had persuaded a council member to introduce an amendment to the legislation that would rezone the Bestgate Road property, DeStefano said he had "no iron-clad agreements."

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