Critical Area Commission OKs museum expansion

Foe of Banneker-Douglass addition vows court fight

April 03, 2003|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

The state's Critical Area Commission yesterday cleared an environmental hurdle to an African-American history museum's proposed addition in Annapolis, but opponents immediately vowed to appeal.

The commission found proposed environmental controls met state standards. Because the planned $5.5 million addition to the Banneker-Douglass Museum is considered a state project, the project did not need to meet the Annapolis city standards that would apply to a project on privately owned land.

"We are looking forward to starting construction soon on the addition," said J. Rodney Little, director of the Maryland Historical Trust.

But Thomas McCarthy Jr., whose law office sits across the street from the museum, said he would challenge the commission's 17-2 decision in court and again seek to block construction. His unsuccessful lawsuit to force the state to conform to local regulations, including those for the Historic District, awaits action at the Court of Special Appeals.

Commission member and County Councilwoman Barbara D. Samorajczyk cast one of two votes in opposition. She said she wanted more information from the city.

Much of the short dispute yesterday involved what lies under the grass-topped lot in Annapolis' Historic District.

Architects for the state project said the site used to be a parking lot and held gravel and debris, while city officials contended it was water-permeable. Last night a county official said the lot held homes that were razed more than 25 years ago. It was a parking lot for many years until the mid-1990s, when plans for the Circuit Court called for the lot to be turned into a small park after all courthouse construction ended.

"We dug all that asphalt up," Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Administrator Robert G. Wallace said in an interview last night. "It was all dug out, dirt was just dumped in there."

The county shelved its park drawings because state officials wanted an addition to Banneker-Douglass.

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