Halt to adding land is sought

Annapolitans demand freeze on annexation

city tries to allay fear


If Paul Hummer spends 15 minutes on Forest Drive to get to his home on the Annapolis Neck peninsula, it's a price worth paying for the quality of life he enjoys.

Hummer, 41, has seen the Annapolis area grow by leaps and bounds over his lifetime, but always at a rate that has made it more than bearable for him to stay. Sure, development has made traffic a little worse, he said, but everything is not as bad as it seems.

Certainly, he told the Annapolis city council Monday night, there's no reason to impose a moratorium on annexation.

"Development is inevitable," he said.

But the fear of unchecked development encroaching on the city drove dozens to testify in support of the temporary freeze on annexation. As the council prepares to listen to testimony next month on two proposed annexations - 179 acres near Forest Drive and Spa Road known as the Katherine properties, and 6 acres off Edgewood Road near the Annapolis Water Reclamation Facility known as the Rodgers property - growth opponents said the city lacks adequate public facilities to handle the development that would be stimulated by annexation.

Other moratorium supporters said a lack of cooperation between city and Anne Arundel County officials has stymied efforts to develop a long-range growth plan that could effectively measure the potential effect annexation would have on Annapolis.

"A moratorium will allow us to see what development is doing to the city and the county," said Scott Mobley, president of the Annapolis Neck Peninsula Federation, which represents 36 communities in and around the city.

Barbara D. Samorajczyk, a Democrat who represents the Annapolis area on the Anne Arundel County Council, said: "We don't care what jurisdiction gets the tax revenue. All we care about is if the plan will work."

The moratorium measure is one of 15 bills that the city council might vote on before new members take office in December. The city election is Nov. 8, but the council will hold three lame-duck sessions: a public hearing Nov. 10, a legislative hearing Nov. 14 and a public hearing Nov. 28. At least half of the eight aldermen will not return.

The city council had anticipated hearing testimony on the Katherine and Rodgers properties Monday night, but more than two hours of comments from city and county residents on the proposed moratorium led the council to push back those items to Nov. 10.

A public hearing must be held for each bill before the city council can vote on it, meaning that if the aldermen listen to testimony on the two proposed annexations, members will have two chances to vote on them before new members take office.

The moratorium bill, sponsored by city council members Sheila M. Tolliver and Louise Hammond, both Democrats, and David Cordle, a Republican, would put a freeze on city annexations until the council adopted a comprehensive set of policies that would "define land use, transportation, and other conditions under which land would be annexed."

The bill, proposed in March, goes on to say that the city council "is concerned that annexation decisions made without such careful and coordinated policy and rationale may compromise the quality of life in Annapolis."

Although moratorium supporters spoke of the gloom and doom of annexation, Mayor Ellen O. Moyer noted that while more than 50 acres have been annexed by the city during her administration, none of that land has been developed.

Of annexed property that has been developed, the city has consistently approved fewer units than the county would have allowed, according to a list that was distributed by Jon L. Arason, the city's director of planning and zoning.

Between 1991 and 2001, the city annexed about 230 acres, the chart showed. The county said 1,173 residences could be built on that land, but the city approved the building of less than half that number, 460.

"When you hear comments that developers come here because they can build more than what the county allows - that's simply not true," Arason said.

Testimony was also heard Monday night on the Market House lease. Moyer, a Democrat seeking re-election, is trying to get the lease approved by next month. The bid has been tentatively awarded to Site Realty Group of Washington.

Tom Corboy, president of the Ward One Residents Association, criticized the terms of the proposed lease, which could allow Site Realty to control Market House for 40 years without city recourse.

"Five of you can pass anything you want ... but it would be a tragedy if this lease is passed," Corboy said.


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