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Legislation to rezone Annapolis City Dock fails after five-hour meeting

Date: Capital Gazette, May 22, 2018, Danielle Ohl

Mayor Gavin Buckley’s legislation to rezone and further development City Dock failed Monday night after two and a half hours of heated public testimony.

The City Council did not second a motion to vote on the legislation, which would have rezoned areas in the 2013 City Dock Master Plan. Because the second motion failed, the legislation failed.

Buckley said Monday he was attempting to implement the zoning that would allow for the plan’s revitalization.

But opponents, including Alderwoman Elly Tierney and representatives of Historic Annapolis, balked at relaxing height and bulk restrictions from the historic area.

Some residents felt the legislation would usher in a controversial proposed boutique hotel. Some renderings of the hotel list a height in violation of the Historic District limits.

During the meeting, Tierney motioned to take the legislation off consent calendar — meaning legislative action did not take place until midnight, after many of the bill’s detractors had exited chambers. Tierney opposed the legislation as a “travesty” of the City Dock Master Plan and action without a framework.

The City Dock Master Plan calls for a cultural landscape study — to analyze the City Dock area given its historic significance — before changes to the zoning or redevelopment. The study would serve as a guideline for development moving forward.

Buckley’s legislation referenced the landscape study, which is not finished. He said he is pushing planning and zoning director Pete Gutwald to wrap up the study this summer.

Residents found the legislation unsettling and worried it might threaten the city’s designation as a National Historic Landmark District. The zoning change would not automatically threaten the city’s designation, said city spokeswoman Susan O’Brien. But residents invoked other historic cities, such as Charleston and Savannah, on the U.S. Interior Department’s watch list for threatened historic sites due to unmitigated development.

Others invoked a proposed boutique hotel and underground parking garage, which they fear could worsen traffic and shirk historic restrictions in favor of development.

Alderman Ross Arnett peppered the testifying residents with questions about their opposition. He called for a public forum where residents can voice their thoughts on City Dock development.

Buckley, for his part, was largely quiet. In an interview before the meeting, he said he wanted to move forward with the rezoning to fulfill a campaign promise to bring change to the city and implement the City Dock Master Plan.

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