At their second-to-last city council meeting, outgoing Annapolis Alderwomen Louise Hammond and Sheila M. Tolliver showed they will go out not with a whisper, but a bang.
Hammond and Tolliver, both Democrats, repeatedly questioned returning council members about their support for legislation about the Market House lease, mixed-use zoning along West Street, annexation moratoriums and a lease to the Annapolis Maritime Museum during Monday night's meeting.
For nearly every vote that broached a controversial subject, Hammond, Tolliver and Republican Alderman George O. Kelley Sr. - none of whom will return when a new council takes over Dec. 12 - raised questions about how the incoming council will change the balance of power in city government. Tolliver said she believed some important legislation might be rushed through by city staff in a way that favors business interests over residential.
In an interview yesterday, Tolliver said the three aldermen have catered to the requests of residents, rather than to those of business owners and property developers.
"Where there is division, usually those of us who have been in the minority this term have tried to sell the case of the public, and the others have been trying to sell the case of the private interest," Tolliver said.
Ward 8 Alderman Josh Cohen, a Democrat, disagreed, saying that all the council members, while they have often sparred, believe they are acting in the public interest. Cohen said the question of how the new council's alliances will be made is an open one.
"It's interesting because a lot of the so-called factions shift depending on the issue," he said. "As it's often said, politics makes strange bedfellows. One thing about the city council that's clear is that there are no set voting blocs. Different aldermen will stick together on different issues."
The Market House lease, zoning measure and annexation proposals will be voted on Nov. 28 at the council's last meeting, in what could be a marathon session.
All three topics have been the subject of heated debate about how Annapolis can best limit the growth and development that many worry will overtake the capital city.
The item that generated the least controversy Monday night was the Market House lease. A few people at the beginning of the meeting questioned the 20-year lease and the council's decision to vote on the lease before new members could consider it, but council members said they are close to an agreement on what was once a divisive question.
The mixed-use zoning plan for West Street from Church Circle to West Gate Circle, at Spa Road, elicited more fireworks.
The plan, which has the support of two residential associations and has gone through several years of negotiations among stakeholders in the area, would restrict the height and size of new buildings, limit the distribution of liquor licenses that are effective until 2 a.m. and regulate building demolition.
The council voted down some changes to the legislation, a move that Hammond and several residents said put the zoning plan in jeopardy.
After the vote, Hammond complained to the council.
"I can't tell you what a disappointment this is for me," she said. "It's a shame what you've done."
Cohen called the vote "a real disservice to Annapolis" and said it was the worst vote the council has made in its four-year term.
The council was also deeply divided Monday night over how the city should annex new property. Tolliver said an amendment proposed by Cohen and Ward 5 Alderman David H. Cordle Sr., a Republican, gutted the legislation she had originally proposed. Cohen acknowledged that the amendment effectively changed the legislation into a moratorium on development instead of a moratorium on annexation, but said that it more successfully dealt with the problem.