Crystal Spring meeting draws hundreds in Annapolis

Several hundred people filled an Annapolis church to standing-room-only on Wednesday night to discuss the proposed Crystal Spring development.

The project along Forest Drive on the edge of the city would include 540 housing units -- most for seniors -- as well as retail stores, an inn and an arts center. Though it's in preliminary approval stages, the project has drawn strong opposition from Annapolis-area residents who have concerns about how it would affect traffic, schools and the environment.

David Prosten, president of the local chapter of the Sierra Club, urged Crystal Spring opponents who gathered at Bay Ridge Christian Church to sign an online petition, write letters to the editor, write to Annapolis Mayor Josh Cohen and contribute to a legal defense fund, which was created in the event the project ends up in court.

"When it comes down to it, we are dealing with very deep-pocketed folks," Prosten said.

Baskets were passed among the crowd to collect contact information and pledges to the legal fun.

Representatives from developer Crystal Spring Development LLC and National Lutheran Communities & Services, which would operate the senior living center, watched quietly from the back.

Cohen, who did not attend the meeting, said Thursday morning that it's not up to him or the City Council to approve or block the project. Property owner Janet Richardson-Pearson's land is zoned appropriately and the area is targeted for growth in the city's comprehensive plan.

"The fact of the matter is, the applicant has a right to submit an application and the professional (city) staff will review it vigorously," Cohen said.

Cohen has supported the Crystal Spring concept and said he'll make sure the city's reviewers hold the project to the highest standards.

"I want to make this, environmentally, the best project the city has ever done, and I'm confident it will be," Cohen said. "But a lot of folks don't want to see a single tree taken down."

Mike Pantelides, one of two Republican candidates for mayor this year, issued a statement after the meeting, saying Crystal Spring is too large for the area and could harm the environment and contribute to traffic gridlock.

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