Facilities rules proposed

City growth would hinge on adequate fire, police, water, roads

September 13, 2006|By Nia-Malika Henderson | Nia-Malika Henderson,sun reporter

An Annapolis alderman has introduced legislation that would require that adequate fire, police, water and road support be in place before major new developments move forward.

Alderman David H. Cordle Sr., a Republican who represents Ward 5, said the measure "has some teeth," and predicted that it would be approved before the end of the year, months before expected.

"It allows for development to occur, but infrastructure has to be in place," Cordle said yesterday. "It may need some fine-tuning, it may not please everybody, but we're ready to listen."

The action comes six weeks after the council approved a moratorium on major new development approvals until an adequate-facilities ordinance is enacted. The moves are in response to rising neighborhood discontent about traffic in the city, and the flurry of intense development in the West Street corridor.

Under Cordle's proposal, which was co-sponsored by Mayor Ellen O. Moyer, a Democrat, and reviewed by the state, the city's Department of Planning and Zoning would issue certificates of adequate public facilities to projects that meet facilities standards.

Adequate fire and emergency response times would have to be met if the projects were built, and there would have to be enough police officers in areas of new development. Additionally, future project sites would have to have adequate water and sewage service, recreational facilities, roads, and transportation and storm water management.

For Alderman Wayne M. Taylor, a Ward 4 Democrat, the list of requirements developers have to meet for building approval poses a potential fiscal burden for the city.

"I can see where it could become a tax burden on the city because there are a lot of city requirements, so it's going to end up costing us one way or another," he said. "Who is going to pay for traffic impact studies? You think the developers are going to come out of their pocket and pay for it? I don't think so."

Cordle said developers would have the option of paying to improve infrastructure if they are denied the right to build because of inadequate facilities.

"There are remedies that a builder could exercise," he said. "A developer could put roads in and cause mitigations."

For now, the proposed ordinance does not account for county schools in Annapolis. Cordle said he'll seek input from the Anne Arundel County Council and the school board. The county has its own adequate public facilities ordinance, which allows officials to reject developments in areas where schools are overcrowded.

The rules and city government committee, planning commission and environmental matters committee will take up the ordinance in the coming weeks.

Cordle said he expects that the committees will review the measure promptly.

"Developers and the public have been waiting for this ordinance, and now that it's out there, I see no reason to forestall it any longer," Cordle said. "I'm optimistic and hopeful that we'll get it adopted."

Some had predicted the development freeze, adopted in July on a 6-3 vote, would be in effect for at least a year. The development delay applies to commercial projects of more than 10,000 square feet and residential developments of four or more units. Projects already in the building pipeline - about 30 - are not affected by the freeze.

On Monday night, the city council altered the terms of the moratorium and will now allow rebuilding on single-family home lots as long as the development has fewer than four units.

A public hearing is scheduled on that piece of the legislation and the adequate-public facilities ordinance Sept. 25.

In other business, the council voted 5-4 to defeat Alderman Josh Cohen's proposal to require the votes of a "super-majority" of council members to allow residential property tax revenue increases of 5 percent or more.nia.henderson@baltsun.com

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