Mayor Gavin Buckley’s City Dock rezoning legislation has spurred the National Trust for Historic Preservation to name the Annapolis historic site as one of the top 11 “Most Endangered Historic Places.”
The private nonprofit is making the announcement alongside Historic Annapolis at 10 a.m. Tuesday at City Dock. Sen. John Astle, D-Annapolis, and Alderwoman Elly Tierney, D-Ward 1, will be in attendance. The Colonial Historic District of Annapolis has been listed in the National Registry of Historic Places as a landmark since June 1965.
Buckley’s legislation would rezone City Dock to accommodate a proposed hotel and establish mixed-uses similar to West Street while waiving Historic District height and bulk restrictions if the project adheres to visual “performance controls” outlined in the not-yet-complete Cultural Landscape Report.
Removing those height and bulk restrictions are the core of opposition to the mayor’s plan.
“To the dismay of residents and visitors alike, the proposed rezoning of the Colonial Annapolis Historic District opens the door for permanent loss of the area’s unique character,” Stephanie K. Meeks said in a statement. Meeks is president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “Annapolis deserves redevelopment that embraces the history of the community and provides for compatible growth within the framework of the already adopted preservation guidelines — ensuring that one of the state’s premier heritage tourist destinations is maintained for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations.”
This is the first time Annapolis and City Dock have appeared on the top 11 list. The nonprofit has put the list out for decades, totaling about 300 sites at risk of damage or destruction due to natural disasters, deferred maintenance and “inappropriate development proposals,” according to the announcement.
The list is released each year to galvanize communities to protect historic sites. About five percent of the listed sites have been lost because of community response, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Historic Annapolis president and CEO Robert Clark called for the city to reject Buckley’s rezoning proposal.
“The current rezoning proposal is not worthy of Annapolis and should be rejected,” Clark said in a statement. “The 11 most endangered listing is a formal recognition by the National Trust that ‘this place matters,’ and the proposed re-zoning is a serious and imminent threat to a place designated as one of America’s treasures.”
The city has maintained its historic status with careful development and curation through the Historic Preservation Commission. Buckley has been at odds with the commission — declining to reappoint its chairwoman and losing a court case against them as a private citizen after a mural was painted on one of his buildings.
Despite earning a place on the National Trust list, Annapolis is unlikely to lose its national landmark designation, officials at the National Parks Service have said.
Buckley’s first attempt to pass the City Dock legislation failed. The bill didn’t earn a second motion during a City Council meeting after hours of public comment. Buckley has said he plans to bring the legislation back.
He told The Capital he understand residents’ concerns but hopes to rework City Dock into something similar to the Wharf in Washington, D.C.
City businessman Harvey Blonder has met with city officials over a potential hotel on City Dock. Project drawings show other changes that could be made to the historic district including a spray park, a beach, a lawn with performance area and a fountain. It also would remove the Harbormaster’s office and move the Capt. William Burtis House to the corner of Randall and Dock streets.
If City Dock rezoning legislation passes, proposals would need to go before the Historic Preservation Commission, the Planning Commission and the City Council subcommittee before final approval.