Annapolis City Council returned from its August recess Monday night and prepared to spend the fall debating a slate of progressive social policies and changes to several land use laws.
At its bimonthly meeting, members of the all-Democratic council introduced legislation that would eliminate water bill late fees, promote workforce housing and require city contractors to pay prevailing wages. Other proposals would expand the election board, create two small waterfront parks and add fees for non-maritime use of waterfront properties.
With the exception of an ordinance clarifying changes to the city’s street cafe regulations, which passed unanimously, all other proposed legislation was introduced as “first readers” and sent to committees for review. Later this fall, the council will schedule public hearings and additional debates before taking final votes.
Ward 6 Alderman DaJuan Gay also reminded colleagues of a still-in-committee ordinance he introduced in June that would encourage developers to construct more workforce housing in the city. Monday night, Gay gave a brief presentation, based on a recent trip to New Orleans, creating affordable housing and community spaces in historic buildings. Gay also encouraged members to attend a Sept. 20 joint meeting of the Housing and Human Welfare Committee and the city’s Planning Commission to discuss workforce housing issues.
A special council meeting has been scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 19, to avoid a conflict with Rosh Hashana the following week.
Here’s a preview of proposed legislation introduced Monday night that if adopted, could bring changes to the city:
The Morning Sun
∗ Street-end parks can be found in several Annapolis waterfront neighborhoods. Ward 2 Alderwoman Karma O’Neill would like to add two “mini-parks” on land already owned by the city: One on Tolson Street and one on Tucker Street. Both parks would have access to Weems Creek.
∗ Ward 5 Alderman Brooks Schandelmeier proposed an ordinance that would require some large city capital improvement projects to pay prevailing wages and prioritize working with local firms. The legislation is modeled on a comparable Anne Arundel County statute. In a staff report, Public Works Director David Jarrell cautioned that a construction worker shortage has already resulted in higher wages and that the city received just one bid for a flood mitigation project on Compromise Street.
∗ Ward 4 Alderwoman Sheila Finlayson would like to see the city cut residents a break on fees for late utility payments. Her proposed ordinance would allow the city’s finance manager to grant one late-fee waiver each year. During the 2022 fiscal year, the city collected $160,655 in late utility bills fees, according to a staff report.
∗ Following up on a 2021 overhaul of the city’s maritime zoning districts, Ward 7 Alderman Rob Savidge is proposing a new fee for “nonmaritime uses” of land in those districts. Ward 8 Alderman Ross Arnett expressed some concern about the plan, noting that some property owners could be assessed fees of nearly $200,000. Savidge’s proposal also provides fiscal incentives for landowners who allow public water access.
Expanding public water access remains a priority for Mayor Gavin Buckley, and the city remains locked in at least one long-standing dispute with residents who claim a public access point was lost to a private landowner. Oct. 1 is the deadline set for court-ordered mediation in a case that pits Eastport residents against a condominium association.
∗ A proposed charter amendment, sponsored by Savidge and Arnett, would expand the Annapolis Board of Supervisors of Elections from three to five members. A separate resolution would create a task force that could recommend other changes, such as rescheduling city elections to align with state and county elections.
∗ Just one proposal failed to receive unanimous initial approval Monday night: A resolution protesting the Naval Academy Golf Association’s plans to build a golf course in the Greenbury Point Conservation Area. Arnett and Gay both voted against the resolution that would oppose the controversial golf course, which has divided many Anne Arundel County residents.