Mayor's push on City Dock rezoning a first step in the right direction
Date: Capital Gazette, June 4, 2018, Staff Editorial
Three years ago we rounded off a series called Visions of Annapolis with an editorial saying the city “devotes about 56 percent of City Dock to parking, with sidewalks and pedestrian-friendly open space making up just 17 percent ...”
“City residents,” we argued, “will have to realize they are throwing away a resource — and potential magnet for non-bar-going visitors — in order to hang on to one of the most scenic parking lots in America.”
This realization was built into the City Dock Master Plan shelved during the last mayoral administration, and it played a huge role in the election of Mayor Gavin Buckley. So it was inevitable that, one way or another, the city would get to the turning point we expect at a City Council work session Tuesday.
We support the measure Buckley is putting on the agenda. It won’t determine the final shape and extent of changes to City Dock — that will take a complex process that will go on for years. But it will open the door to change and start an important discussion the city can’t keep putting off.
Buckley’s legislation allows the implementation of the master plan by changing the City Dock area to the mixed-use zoning that worked well for the redevelopment of inner West Street. The measure has attracted intense opposition, mainly over a proposal for a four-story hotel and an accompanying underground parking garage.
Buckley promised during his campaign to leverage private resources to bolster the city. That’s what he’s trying to do here. Rezoning is merely the start. Concrete changes will have to pass muster with the Historic Preservation Commission and the Planning Commission, not to mention the City Council.
This will involve not just design and historic preservation, but also financing and real estate transactions. Looking at performance on past projects, it’s an open question if the city has the expertise to pull this off. Buckley says he’ll find it “really frustrating” if there’s still a parking lot on City Dock in four years, but more is at stake. He promised change, and if he can’t get the city — or at least a working majority — together on this crucial improvement at Annapolis’ very heart, there will be reason to question whether he merits a second term.
This being Annapolis, there will be debate every step of the way. The views of Ward 1 residents and Historic Annapolis must be considered. But they’ll have to acknowledge that they don’t own City Dock. It’s a public resource — a treasure — for all of the city, and indeed for the entire region. Right now, the city is squandering it. And, as we also wrote in this space three years ago, “trying to resist all change … is nearly always a guarantee of disaster.”
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