The Chesapeake Conservancy will not move forward with plans to build an office building near Quiet Waters Park after public outcry about the project.
“In consultation with the Earl family, we have decided against building the proposed structure that we had hoped would serve as the Earl Conservation Center at Quiet Waters Park,” the conservancy said in a statement on Sunday. “While we still believe that the Conservation Center would have had a tremendously positive community impact by bolstering local environmental organizations, some members of the community have strongly objected to the new building design.”
The announcement came after two environmental groups, Friends of Quiet Waters and the Annapolis Peninsula Federation, held a public meeting Friday at which community members expressed disapproval of the project and accused county leaders of not being transparent.
The decision to withdraw from the project was made in consultation with the Earl family, said Jody Couser, spokesperson for the Chesapeake Conservancy. Anne Arundel County purchased 19 acres near Quiet Waters for $8 million in 2019, $2 million of which came from the conservancy thanks to a donation from philanthropists James and Sylvia Earl. In March, the County Council unanimously voted to lease about 5 acres to the conservancy.
County Executive Steuart Pittman said in a statement Monday that the decision to terminate construction plans follows reported online attacks and threats made to surveyors working on the property. Pittman attended Friday’s meeting and offered support to the development.
“I am very disappointed that the Chesapeake Conservancy’s outstanding work to create the Earl Conservation Center was met with such vitriol by nearby residents, leaving the conservancy no choice but to direct its efforts elsewhere,” Pittman said. “I am saddened that recent threats to surveyors by neighbors and online attacks on the organization and its director left the board with no appetite to continue.”
Christopher Brown, a senior associate of Ziger Snead Architects, said one of his surveyors working at the office park property last week was approached by someone who reportedly verbally berated them and threatened to damage their work vehicle.
“Routine harassment for highly public projects is not uncommon in our line of work but this situation as described to our team escalated beyond that,” Brown said
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Pittman’s office directed questions about the alleged threats to Anne Arundel Police, who said no reports were filed with the department.
Friday’s meeting was designed to “present the development plans and encourage informed citizens to take action,” according to a media advisory sent out by the groups. Andrew Loftus, president of Friends of Quiet Waters, told the audience that there was a lack of communication from the County Council and executive’s office in the years since the project was announced.
Lisa Rodvien, Annapolis’ representative on the County Council, refuted this, saying that any bill or public hearing is given ample notice in newspapers and forums such as the county website as per their guidelines.
Plans to refurbish existing buildings on the project site were abandoned after they were damaged by weather and a reported arson. The county instead allowed the conservancy to demolish the existing buildings and build an office of their own that will be farther back from the waterfront.
While the project is no longer moving forward, the lease signed between the county and the conservancy remains in place, Couser said.
“We leave it now to the county and the community to determine their vision for the newly acquired acres, which we are proud to have helped conserve,” Couser said. “The tone of some recent comments was disappointing, and we would have hoped for a more productive dialogue, but we need to focus on our primary mission and conversation work.”