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City headlines dominated by housing authority troubles, development plans

It has not been a slow year for city news.

The Housing Authority for the City of Annapolis, which has battled against dwindling federal funding for years, grabbed many headlines.

This year, the organization, which oversees 790 units throughout the city, has dealt with resignations, delayed projects and a lack of leadership at the 11th hour.

In a two-month span, Executive Director Vincent Leggett resigned, along with two board members and two high-level employees. The board found a new executive director, Sharon Land, who currently serves as the deputy director of the Housing Authority of Prince George's County.

But Land backed out, leaving the Annapolis housing without a permanent executive director. Alderwoman Sheila Finlayson, D-Ward 4, said Land's decision may have been tied to Mayor Mike Pantelides decision to inspect all of HACA's housing units for the first time and make the housing authority — which has struggled financially — pay for the inspections, totaling about $79,000. She recently introduced a resolution to waive the charges for the inspections.

HACA also has to deal with a huge blow to plans to redevelop Newtowne 20. The 44-year-old property has about 20 closed units and the rest of the property needs repairs and large-scale maintenance.

HACA brought in a San Diego developer to redevelop the property for $56.6 million. That project would bulldoze the current property and rebuild. But the work was delayed after state tax credits were denied, which were part of the plan to pay for the large-scale project.

The Hampstead Companies failed to submit certain portions of the application on time and its overhead fees were too high, so the state denied the request.

The company now has to choose to wait another year to apply for the tax credits, or they must scale back the project to rely on fewer tax credits.

HPC Code Changes

HACA isn't the only news in the city. The Historic Preservation Commission is modifying the city code, which will change some of the ways it handle the oversight of historic properties in Annapolis. The proposed code changes will modify how the commission and its administrative arm cite properties for demolition by neglect while updating the code to be in line with state and national definitions.

The code was discussed at a Dec. 8 meeting and will be voted on by the City Council.

Maritime zoning changes

Changes to the Waterfront Maritime Conservation District were approved at the Dec. 7 City Council meeting. The City Dock area is impacted, where a 40 percent requirement for maritime businesses on properties within the zone was established. The remaining 60 percent can be restaurant or retail properties.

A proposal at the Old Fawcett Boat Supplies property will have an easier path for approval with the changes.

Crystal Spring update

By the end of the year, the city should get a new forest conservation plan for Crystal Spring, the $200 million mixed-use project proposed along Forest Drive.

The project has been spinning its wheels for years and the forest plan is one of the first submitted in the development process. Mayor Mike Pantelides has spoken out against the size and scope of the project, although some have questioned that based on language he used during his campaign.

Affirmative Hillspoint LLC representatives have said its new plan will show a smaller project. Instead of spreading out the buildings and retail throughout the property, the developers have concentrated the development near Forest Drive and Spa Road and further away from Crab Creek.

- Chase Cook