December 23, 2007

ISSUE: -- The Maryland Stadium Authority recently recommended demolishing or moving a 19th-century home in downtown Annapolis to make way for an estimated $20 million National Sailing Hall of Fame.

Its long-awaited report said that trying to incorporate the modest house, one of the original pieces of the waterfront streetscape and now used as office space for the Department of Natural Resources Police, would be too challenging.

Lee Tawney, executive director of the National Sailing Hall of Fame, said his group is consulting with the Maryland Historical Trust on the best way to move forward on plans to develop the site, while respecting its historic nature. Should the house be saved?

Question should be: `Is scenario legal?'

The question is not whether the circa 1890 house at 69 Prince George St. should be moved or demolished to make way for the Sailing Hall of Fame but whether either scenario is legal under state and federal law.

The section of the SHOF's feasibility study that is most relevant is the historical summary by R.C. Goodwin. This section highlights the fact that the building on the site is listed as a "contributing resource" to the Annapolis Historic District (1969), the Annapolis National Register Historic District (1984), and the Colonial Annapolis National Historic Landmark District (1965).

The glory of Annapolis today is that a wide variety of buildings dating from the 17th- through the mid-20th centuries, from humble to grand, have been saved from willful destruction. All of these buildings -- not just the homes of the wealthy -- make Annapolis a "museum without walls" that is unequaled in the United States.

Changes to buildings within the Annapolis Historic District must conform to the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation. These standards have been adopted by the City of Annapolis and the Maryland Historical Trust.

Under these standards, removal or demolition of the building at 69 Prince George St. would have an "adverse effect" on both the historic building and on the surrounding historic district.

It is the Maryland Historical Trust's responsibility to evaluate the value of the building at 69 Prince George St. and to decide whether it must be saved in place or whether it can be moved or demolished. Let us hope that the MHT is allowed to make its decision in a fair, equitable and transparent way, without undue political influence or favor.

Greg Stiverson Annapolis

Sailing museum is not necessary

There are many common sense reasons why a "sailing museum" should not be built on the Annapolis waterfront location. The proposed project would raze a historic building, displace the Department of Natural Resources Police from City Dock, add environmental stressors to an overburdened Spa Creek, and increase runoff degrading a struggling Bay tributary.

In addition, prior to, during and after construction, this monument to ego would require continued taxpayer subsidies, an unnecessary luxury. The museum committee estimates 150,000 annual visits to a tourist-saturated town which is threatened with bankruptcy should it have to pay its police pensioners (according to Mayor Moyer).

The city police force is understaffed -- seven positions, 14,500 man hours -- at a time when crime is increasing. So I think the Maryland Stadium Authority should take its business elsewhere, much like the horse arena planned in Crownsville.

Maryellen O. Brady Edgewater

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