City council approves annexation

Annapolis aldermen vote to add two parcels, with moratorium on any immediate development


Annapolis will expand to take in 185 acres along Forest Drive, but developers won't be able to build on the properties right away after action by the city council this week.

As the council met Monday night for its last session before five incumbents step down next week, it approved two annexations along Forest Drive, as well as a bill that places a development moratorium on annexed property.

During a public hearing before the vote, several community leaders said they preferred the original bill - to put a temporary halt on annexation - over the amended version that temporarily prohibits development on newly annexed land until the council can adopt an adequate-public-facilities measure.

But they concluded that some restrictions were better than none.

"It's a step in the right direction. It's a step that will benefit the city," Michael "Scott" Bowling, a resident of the Forest Drive area, told the council.

The development moratorium will apply to two annexations that were approved Monday night: 179 acres near Spa Road known as the Katherine property, and 6 acres off Edgewood Road known as the Rodgers property.

City officials said the development moratorium applies to the Katherine and Rodgers parcels. Council members and officials anticipate that an adequate-public-facilities bill will gain passage in the next six months. Developers of those two parcels would need at least that much time to draft site plans, they said.

The council approved an amendment making the moratorium retroactive to May 26 instead of March 14, as originally proposed. That spared the planned 23-acre Rocky Gorge housing development south of Aris T. Allen Boulevard in the Oxford Landing community.

In another matter, the council approved development restrictions for the West Street corridor east of Taylor Avenue, but not before backing an amendment by Alderman David H. Cordle Sr. The amendment allows three developments to go forward without having to comply with more stringent height restrictions. The amendment passed, 5-4.

In addition to Cordle, the change was backed by fellow Republicans George O. Kelley Sr. and Michael W. Fox, as well as Democrats Cynthia Abney Carter and Classie Gillis Hoyle. Opposing the amendment were four Democrats: Mayor Ellen O. Moyer as well as Josh Cohen, Louise Hammond and Sheila M. Tolliver.

The zoning restrictions were to apply to projects introduced since Feb. 14, when the bill was introduced. Cordle's amendment moved that date to Monday, when it was approved.

"It's unfair to penalize people who are already going through the process," Cordle said.

That move infuriated some council members, who said the original bill, developed over years of talks among planners, residents and builders, had the support of three civic associations.

Cohen said the changes "violate the spirit of the agreement."

Opponents of the amendment said the new rules will apply to too few properties along the corridor.

"It doesn't gut it," said Hammond, "but it does take the heart out of the bill."

The new development rules also limit the distribution of liquor licenses that are effective until 2 a.m. and regulate building demolition.

In a low-key ending to another matter, the council also voted, 9-0, to approve a lease turning over the historic Market House to Site Realty Group, the operator of Washington's Eastern Market.

City officials hope the market can be reopened by April.

Site Realty Group will pay $100,000 a year, adjusted for inflation, to manage the 5,000-square-foot facility near City Dock. The building has been closed since January. The council had voted to approve a lease with Dean & DeLuca, but the New York-based grocer backed out of the deal, igniting a political dispute.

Monday's meeting was the last for Hammond and Tolliver, who did not seek re-election; Fox, who lost in the Republican primary; Carter, who was defeated this month; and Kelley, who lost a mayoral bid to Moyer.

Three council members said their goodbyes during a cordial break, with Fox saying, "We have accomplished a great deal for the city."

New council members will be sworn in Monday.

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