Measure targets `infill'

Annapolis official seeks extension of building moratorium to include some private lots

September 27, 2006|By Nia-Malika Henderson | Nia-Malika Henderson,sun reporter

An Annapolis alderwoman's proposal to subject some home-construction projects to a building freeze is meeting with strong disapproval from some builders, developers and homeowners.

Alderwoman Julie Stankivic, an independent who represents Ward 6, is trying to revive an amendment that would prohibit the owner of a home that straddles two or more lots from demolishing the home and replacing it with several houses.

Her proposal was part of the original building freeze approved by the city council, but the council struck it down Sept. 11 after builders and homeowners complained that it had been approved without adequate public comment.

Stankivic said she brought the amendment back to the council to ensure that all development - even "infill" - is delayed while the council considers an adequate public facilities ordinance. She said that infill has a cumulative and detrimental effect on traffic, public facilities and the overall character of Annapolis.

"People said they want to have a slowdown on development, not just large development, but on all development," she said. "To give that pause that everyone was looking for, we should include everything."

Alan J. Hyatt, an attorney who represents builders, called the amendment "a disingenuous approach to a problem that has nothing to do with adequate public facilities."

"I don't want this council to get moratorium-happy," he told the council Monday night. "The council has no business toying with the rights of property owners. This is bad law and bad precedent. To prevent use of individual lots is an inefficient use of land."

Stankivic said that since January 2005, 58 single-family homes have been razed and 166 residences put up in their place. She estimated that between 10 and 20 homes were on double lots and were replaced by two or more homes.

In July, by a 6-3 vote, the council approved a resolution that delays the issuance of building permits until the adequate public facilities ordinance - which was introduced Sept. 11 - is in place.

Under that measure, sponsored by Republican Alderman David H. Cordle Sr. of Ward 5, adequate fire, police, water and road support would have to be in place before major new developments could move forward.

The current building freeze, expected to last four to six months, applies to commercial projects of more than 10,000 square feet and residential developments of four or more units.

At Monday night's public hearing, several speakers - mostly builders and developers - said Stankivic's amendment infringed on property rights and didn't address the development concerns of the original resolution, which was proposed by Alderman Joshua Cohen, a Ward 8 Democrat running for County Council.

Backers of the amendment, like Ann Katcef, who lives in Homewood, voiced concerns that increasing density on occupied lots ruins neighborhoods and leads to "mini-developments."

"We shouldn't allow people to tear down one house and allow putting up three or four," she said. "If you multiply every one of these people who want to do this, then we've got another Park Place or West Street. We don't have the facilities or streets."

Council members and developers, however, said that Stankivic's amendment adversely affects small developers and homeowners.

"It's one thing to put the brakes on large new developments, but it's different to impact homeowners and local builders," said Cohen. "That's not what the moratorium was intended to do, and I'm not prepared to go in that direction."

Stankivic said that delaying all development would allow the council time to address density and infill issues.

"If we take this pause we can start to deal with this issue other ways, like lot mergers or how much square footage should be allowed," Stankivic said. "It's a moratorium, not a permanent change."

The council is expected to vote on the amendment Oct. 9.

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