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The old Annapolis Department of Public Works building on Spa Road, built in the 1950s, was torn down. The City Council took initial steps Monday to approve funding for the purchase of a new public works facility on Hudson Street.
The old Annapolis Department of Public Works building on Spa Road, built in the 1950s, was torn down. The City Council took initial steps Monday to approve funding for the purchase of a new public works facility on Hudson Street. (By Paul W. Gillespie, Capital Gazette)

The Annapolis City Council paved the way late Monday night for the passage of short-term rental legislation at its next meeting in January while taking the first step toward modifying the city’s capital improvement plan to allow construction of a new public works facility on Hudson Street.

After lengthy public testimony on O-26-19, the council debated the amended bill that seeks to tax and regulate short-term rentals in the city.

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Alderman Rob Savidge, who has raised concerns that the bill does not do enough to address the hundreds of short-term rentals that are already operating in the city, had indicated before the meeting that he intended to introduce four amendments to bolster the regulatory power of the legislation.

But to do so, the Ward 7 Democrat first needed to convince one of the five members on the council who voted in favor of the amended bill at the Nov. 18 meeting to file a motion to reconsider the legislation. It would have allowed Savidge to introduce his amendments. Those members were Mayor Gavin Buckley, and council members Sheila Finlayson, Ross Arnett, Fred Paone and Marc Rodriguez.

Rodriguez was not present at the meeting on Monday. None of the other four obliged Savidge’s request.

Paone, R-Ward 2, said he had strongly considered a motion to reconsider but opted not to in the interest of getting the legislation passed and addressing some of the outstanding issues such as zoning and density at a later date.

“Frankly we need to get this behind us,” Paone said. “We’ve got a budget to come up with this spring. There are other issues here beside this and this has occupied so much of our time that we need to get on with our job with all issues in the city. Not that this isn’t important, of course, it’s important, but we’ve got a city dock to deal with and a number of other things.”

Savidge countered that a motion to reconsider would not change the legislative timeline. A final vote on the bill would take place at the next City Council meeting Jan. 13 regardless, Savidge said.

“Whether or not we reconsider tonight, January is going to be the final vote no matter what we do,” he said. “It’s not going to drag on. All this does is to include Alderman Gay’s amendment and consider mine. ... There’s no cost to this."

Alderman DaJuan Gay, D-Ward 6, shared Savidge’s frustrations, namely because an amendment he had introduced was mistakenly left out of the substitute amendment the council passed on Nov. 18. Gay’s amendment would have dropped the minimum age to apply for a short-term rental license from 21 to 18. Gay’s only option now is to introduce separate legislation that includes the amendment.

While the short-term rental debate winds down, the council gave initial approval Monday to change the language in the city’s capital improvement plan to fit the description of a seven-acre property on Hudson Street where the city hopes to build a new department of public works facility.

The city has appropriated more than $5 million for the project. Buckley announced Friday the city was finalizing a $2.2 million deal to purchase the 6.88-acre parcel.

Mayor Gavin Buckley, council members Fred Paone and Sheila Finlayson at the news conference Friday announcing the proposed site for the new DPW facility.
Mayor Gavin Buckley, council members Fred Paone and Sheila Finlayson at the news conference Friday announcing the proposed site for the new DPW facility. (courtesy of Mitchelle Stephenson)

Construction could start as early as summer, and it’s expected to be less expensive to build out than options on Spa Road or Forest Drive, said Public Works Director David Jarrell, who also was confirmed Monday as the next city manager. He will start Feb. 1.

Cost-saving will come from scaling down the aesthetic features of the new building such as glass. The site is already graded and zoned for industrial use, further reducing cost compared to other sites, Jarrell said.

Jarrell fielded questions from the council about the project. He assured Gay that traffic would not be significantly impacted on Hudson and West Street. Savidge and Alderwoman Elly Tierney, D-Ward 1 asked what would happen to the Spa Road location, which is located in Tierney’s ward.

If part of the site remains an athletic field, it would require minimal remediation including a soil cap and methane wells, Jarrell said. While building residential homes — as was proposed in a now-defunct land swap deal — would call for significant soil excavation, according to initial suggestions from the state’s environmental department, he said.

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The announcement effectively kills a proposed land swap championed by Buckley that would have handed over the existing public works property on Spa Road to a private developer for land along Forest Drive.

“I would feel a lot better if we had a plan and dollars against the remediation of that site before we proceed in purchasing another site. I think that would be the smart thing to do,” Tierney said. “I just want to make sure there’s no groundbreaking until we figure out what we’re doing.”

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