Annapolis in conflict over city's expansion

Council to vote on annexation as 2 members draft bill to ban it

4 sites on Annapolis Neck are pending

April 03, 2005|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

With four annexation cases looming, Mayor Ellen O. Moyer and some city council members are at odds over whether - and how - Annapolis should expand.

At the center of the debate are competing visions for Annapolis: Should the city be an urban, pedestrian-friendly city or a suburban, SUV-friendly place? And then there are some who think the city should not expand at all.

Moyer believes the choice is clear: Annexations should conform to the urban "mixed-use" character of a city, a contrast to general development patterns in recent years.

"We are an urban city, an urban community, not a suburban complex," she said. "Those are two different paradigms."

But two council members, Sheila M. Tolliver and Louise Hammond, want to put the brakes on growth and have drafted a bill to ban annexation.

The four cases coming before the council, which meets April 11, come from the environmentally sensitive Annapolis Neck, a slender peninsula with only one main traffic artery, Forest Drive.

Many who live near Forest Drive say traffic flow already is too constricted, especially for emergency vehicles, and they oppose development.

City planning director Jon Arasonsaid the annexation proposals have generated a flurry of e-mail and phone calls from residents. One request is for 66 acres slated for single-family homes off Neck Road near Quiet Waters Park. Another proposal is for a 180-acre equestrian property at Forest Drive and Spa Road, which would retain some of its current use.

"There is a lot of [annexation] activity," Arason said. "The problem is that most of the [Annapolis Neck] residents want to get up and down Forest Drive as fast as they can," Arason said.

Contrary to popular perception, he said, density does not necessarily increase because of annexation.

The mayor is urging the council to consider each case, in part because annexation could mean added property tax revenue. Much of Annapolis' land is in federal or state domain - the Naval Academy and the State House complex, for example - and thus are tax-exempt.

Moyer favors reviewing each annexation petition on its individual merits as it is brought before the council. However, Tolliver said she wants the council to adopt guidelines for considering annexation in a comprehensive way, instead of on a case-by-case basis.

"The [annexation] pace has really accelerated since two years ago ... so it's a timely resolution," she said.

Annapolis has acquired about 262 acres since 1991, city officials said. The four current proposals, if approved, would take in a combined 271 acres.

"It can be important to get more land in the city," Arason said. "Cities that have done that have thrived."

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