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If the Annapolis City Dock rezoning vote were held today, it would fail — again

Danielle Ohl
Contact Reporterdohl@capgaznews.com

If the vote to rezone City Dock were held Tuesday, Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley’s legislation would fail — again.

Ahead of a City Council work session to discuss the legislation, five city council members said they did not support the rezoning.

The other three indicated they were looking to learn more about it but said they were still deciding their vote in light of negative feedback from constituents.

The legislation rezones an area between Dock Street and Prince George Street and along Ego Alley on both sides. Buckley has explained it as necessary to implement the 2013 City Dock Master Plan.

But it also makes way for a controversial hotel at 12 Dock St., the current temporary home of the Annapolis Yacht Club. The yacht club will move back to its permanent home later this year after repairs to fire damage are completed.

The former restaurant building, which has seen numerous tenants over the years, is owned by Harvey Blonder.

The legislation would also usher in redevelopment on City Dock — which has generated vocal concern among some city residents. Peter Fillat, the architect designing Blonder’s hotel concept has also put forth plans for City Dock including a spray park, beach and performance area.

Several attended the City Council work session to hear planning and zoning staff explain the reasoning behind the suggested zoning.

Chief of Comprehensive Planning Sally Nash explained mixed zoning has led to “successful revitalization” with both public and private investment on West Street. The zoning allows more types of businesses “by right” than other commercial zoning and has more flexibility in uses as well as bulk regulations, she said.

Nash and Planning and Zoning Director Pete Gutwald explained additional height beyond the Historic District limitations would be subject to a “visual impact assessment.” The assessment would help determine how a project could affect views from important city locations.

“There is a guarantee the viewsheds will be protected...,” Nash said. “We have a requirement that the buildings be in harmony with surrounding buildings.”

The mayor has said he would have co-sponsors on the reintroduced legislation.

He cited four aldermen — Sheila Finlayson, Rhonda Pindell-Charles, Ross Arnett, Marc Rodriguez — who he felt would support the bill on June 18.

Here’s what the City Council said about the legislation.

Alderwoman Elly Tierney, Ward 1:

“Harvey Blonder has to be at the table. It’s clear to me (the legislation) is in parallel with the potential vacancy of the Yacht Club. Again, it’s not about the hotel or whether you like it or not — it’s about the process...I don’t want the development of Dock Street in the hands of one developer.”

Tierney is out of town and did not attend the work session.

Alderman Fred Paone, Ward 2:

On whether he is a no-vote: “Definitely unless things change dramatically.”

During the work session, Paone questioned letting a developer do their own visual assessment.

Alderwoman Rhonda Pindell-Charles, Ward 3:

“I continue to read, listen, and weigh all of the information presented toward making my final decision.”

Alderwoman Sheila Finlayson, Ward 4:

“I don’t think it’s fair to just kill (the legislation). We need more details. I hope that’s what comes out of this work session today. Right now, it’s just rumors and speculation. … I think every subject deserves our full attention.”

Alderman Marc Rodriguez, Ward 5:

Rodriguez wrote on his Facebook page that he is not a co-sponsor and will not vote for the legislation.

“It’s amazing the amount of opposition to this. I’ve never seen this many messages on anything … They’re all negative.”

Alderwoman Shaneka Henson, Ward 6:

“I look forward to learning more about it. I’m looking forward to learning more about why our planning and zoning staff thought it was the right way to go.”

During the work session, Henson asked for clarifications on several parts of the legislation. She proposed having the developer fund its own visual assessment.

Alderman Rob Savidge, Ward 7:

In a message sent Sunday, Savidge said, “Regarding the MX zoning itself, I think it’s premature. We need the cultural landscape plan first, I’m worried it will open (Pandora’s) box with a lot of unintended consequences … and something like this should be done with the buy-in of the person whose ward is most affected — Elly’s.

“I’d be upset myself if someone was proposing such a significant change in my ward without my support. I still have not been told what the rush is behind the proposed change.”

He reaffirmed he would vote no as of Tuesday. He does not plan to attend the work session.

Alderman Ross Arnett, Ward 8:

“I don’t understand what the rush is. I think we are moving way too fast. There’s a lot more going on in that legislation than just City Dock … I believe a boutique hotel could be built down there under current zoning. Why rush the legislation?...

“I get it — you can’t finish if you don’t start. But I also have a problem sole-sourcing to one person. I think that’s wrong and may even be unethical...

“(City Dock) is too important to try to rush while we’re facing a huge budget problem. Come back to me after we push past the budget. I’m more than happy to look at it in July.”

During the work session, Arnett expressed similar sentiments.

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