Bay Ridge Road plan criticized

Urban center proposal sparks congestion fears


A preliminary city plan to make neighborhoods off Bay Ridge Road more of an urban center is drawing criticism and anger from residents, who fear homes and businesses will be lost to development and traffic will get worse.

The study presented to about 250 residents on Wednesday night at Georgetown East Elementary School is based on Annapolis' 1998 comprehensive plan, proposing a "mixed use center" featuring residential, retail and commercial space.

Completed by a Philadelphia firm, it calls for a Main Street-like Bay Ridge Road with trees, bike lanes, on-street parking and an additional traffic light that would slow traffic to 25 mph.

But residents of the Annapolis Neck, where commuters swap stories about going 3 miles in 40 minutes in rush-hour traffic, say enough is enough, and that they don't need another video store, pharmacy or supermarket.

"Twenty-five mph is a slow way to get to work," Carol Taback said. "I see this as a giant trap. We will be trapped in our homes and unable to get to work. It takes us too long to get in and out of the area as it is."

Bridget Johnson, who lives on Cypress Road, was uneasy about the possible expansion of Bay Ridge Road through her yard.

"Our house is in the path of the plan," she said. "What they are trying to do doesn't make sense, and it isn't right."

Jon Arason, director of planning and zoning for Annapolis, said that bulldozing homes on Cypress Road would not be part of the city's final plan. He also said that development is inevitable and doing nothing is not an option.

"It's all about managing change; the trick is making it happen the way you want it to happen," he said. "Right now, I know what people don't want. I'm just trying to figure out what they want."

Many residents complained that the proposed multi-use center would contribute to congestion on the Annapolis Neck peninsula. Chuck Ferrar owns Bay Ridge Wine and Spirits on Hillsmere Drive and said that he already sees too many traffic tie-ups when he's out running errands.

"As a business owner I want as much traffic as possible, but too much creates a bottleneck and people avoid the area and it hurts business," he said. "From what I'm seeing, all they are going to do is change one bottleneck into two. Seems like the city and the mayor never saw property that [they] didn't want to develop and annex."

The plan calls for annexing 6 acres in the county known as the Samaras properties on Bay Ridge Road. Since 1990 the city has acquired 534 acres.

Mayor Ellen O. Moyer said the city has gone forward with projects - such as the 1901 West condominium complex nearing completion on the former J.L. Johnson Lumber site - only after collecting ample input from residents and adhering to environmental regulations.

Moyer also said that the city and county, which have a strained relationship, have to consider the legal rights of property owners.

"There is a frenzy that has been whipped up among county people and when you have people in a frenzy you don't have people who are coming up with ideas," Moyer said.

Many county residents said that they had no faith in the city and that they felt like their voices wouldn't ultimately be heard.

County Councilwoman Barbara D.Samorajczyk, who lives on and represents the Annapolis Neck, said the city erred by commissioning a study without input from residents.

"They have the cart before the horse," she said. "They did the plan and now they want to discuss it."

Another community discussion is tentatively scheduled for June 13.

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