Annapolis orders revisions to Crystal Spring conservation plans

Developers of a large senior living complex in Annapolis have more work to do before their proposal can gain preliminary environmental approval from city officials.

On Friday the city sent developers of Crystal Spring Annapolis – a proposed mix of senior housing, townhouses and shops on 180 acres — a lengthy list of revisions that need to be made before the project's forest conservation plan can win approval, an early but key step in the process.

Crystal Spring would include 350 apartments and cottages for seniors and 75 beds for nursing care and assisted living. There also would be 130 townhouses with no age restrictions, as well as retail shops, an inn, a cultural arts center and a new home for the Wellness House of Annapolis, a nonprofit that provides support services to people with cancer.

Opponents have criticized the plan for sprawling over too much of the property, potentially causing excessive damage to trees and streams and sending pollution flowing into the nearby South River. They note the property is one of the last forested areas on Forest Drive, along the southern border of Annapolis.

The proposal has been controversial in Annapolis in recent years and became an issue in last year's mayoral race, with eventual winner Mike Pantelides saying during the campaign the project was too big for the city.

The forest conservation plan details how buildings, roads, stormwater controls and other man made features would affect trees and plants. The city wants expanded forest preservation areas, additional documentation about wetlands that will be disturbed and more details of how stormwater runoff will be controlled.

In a letter to Crystal Spring Development LLC on Friday, city chief of environmental programs Frank Biba said the requests shouldn't be a hardship for the developers. He wrote there are "reasonable efforts that can be made to reduce disturbance of priority forest area."

Crystal Spring spokesman Jeffrey Davis said the developers would review the city's report, and declined to comment further. There's no required timetable for the developer to re-submit the forest conservation plan.

Environmental activists concerned about Crystal Spring also began poring over the document.

"The fact that the city sent it back to the developer can only be good news," said David Prosten, chairman of the Sierra Club's Anne Arundel County chapter. "The plan is so flawed from the get-go that we're not surprised at this."

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