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Fresh off primary win, Cohen forges ahead on Annapolis City Dock

After surviving a challenge in the Democratic primary this past week, Annapolis Mayor Josh Cohen quickly resumed his controversial efforts to adopt a new long-term plan for City Dock and rezone a key portion of the downtown waterfront.

Cohen wasted no time in resuming his City Dock efforts, holding a City Council work session on the topic Thursday.

He said the session was just one step toward making decisions on the long-term future of City Dock, but he hoped it would "advance the discussion."

Cohen's efforts on two City Dock bills have been among his most controversial actions this year, and they spurred a primary challenge from downtown activist Bevin Buchheister. Buchheister's supporters included many who were frustrated with Cohen's City Dock efforts, which came to a head during an eight-hour public hearing in July.

At his victory party Tuesday, Cohen said Buchheister and her supporters raised valid concerns about the City Dock plan and rezoning, and he pledged to work with them as he moves the process forward.

The proposed City Dock Master Plan, developed with the help of consultants and an advisory committee, calls for allowing taller buildings on Dock Street, changing a downtown traffic circle into a traditional T-intersection and allowing more pedestrian-friendly and open-space areas.

Meanwhile, Cohen's zoning bill would remove maritime zoning from a property on the Compromise Street side of the dock that used to house Fawcett Boat Supplies. It also includes a land swap between the city and private property owners to allow a public promenade along the water.

Both measures have run into considerable opposition from residents and business owners, who have said the historic maritime charm of downtown could be diminished if they are approved.

Cohen's opponent in the general election, Republican Mike Pantelides, said he may seize on the City Dock issues as part of his campaign.

Pantelides said one of his efforts will be to woo Buchheister's supporters to vote for him during the general election. "They're obviously not satisfied with Josh and how he's running the city," Pantelides said.

Pantelides said he would take another look at the City Dock plan.

"You have to slow down the process and take a detailed approach," Pantelides said.

He said he would also put the brakes on the Compromise Street rezoning, which Cohen has proposed to facilitate redevelopment of a vacant building that used to house Fawcett Boat Supplies. There's been an on-again, off-again proposal to tear down the building and replace it with a building featuring a restaurant or retail stores on the ground floor with offices on the upper floors.

"When you're talking about rezoning Fawcett's, you're changing it not just for yourself but for your children and grandchildren. … It's a pretty tremendous decision, and it's not to be rushed," Pantelides said.

Cohen said that although he does not support every recommendation in the draft of the City Dock plan, he wants the city council to adopt a version of the plan before their term ends in December.

Cohen could also face hurdles from the city council in his quest to adopt the City Dock plan and rezoning.

At Thursday's city council work session, Alderwoman Sheila Finlayson said it's as if the council is being asked to "eat an elephant." She requested more sessions to discuss the plans in detail.

Alderman Ross Arnett echoed those concerns and said he still needs help "filling in the blanks" on some details.

The City Council's next meeting is at 7 p.m. Monday, and the agenda is expected to include City Dock.

Election results

In Tuesday's Democratic primary, Cohen defeated Buchheister, 1,774 to 1,332.

On the Republican side, Pantelides was the winner of a three-way race. Pantelides won 765 votes to Bob O'Shea's 365 and Frank Bradley's 41.

There were two contested primaries for the eight seats on the city council. In the Democratic primary for Ward 1, which includes downtown Annapolis and neighborhoods along West Street, Alderman Joe Budge beat Thomas McCarthy, 374-171.

In the Democratic primary for Ward 2, which includes West Annapolis and Admiral Heights, Kurt Riegel beat Timothy Mennuti, 355-180.

The matchups for the general election will be:

Mayor: Democrat Cohen vs. Republican Pantelides.

Ward 1: Incumbent Democratic Alderman Budge vs. Republican Allen Furth.

Ward 2: Democrat Riegel vs. incumbent Republican Alderman Fred Paone.

Ward 3: Democrat Rhonda Pindell Charles is unopposed.

Ward 4: Incumbent Democratic Alderwoman Finlayson is unopposed.

Ward 5: Incumbent Democratic Alderman Jared Littmann is unopposed.

Ward 6: Incumbent Democratic Alderman Kenneth Kirby vs. unaffiliated Steven Conn.

Ward 7: Incumbent Democratic Alderman Ian Pfeiffer vs. Republican James T. Clenny.

Ward 8: Incumbent Democratic Alderman Arnett is unopposed.

pwood@baltsun.com

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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