City headlines dominated by housing authority troubles, development plans
Dec 22, 2015 | 3:11 PM
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.
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.
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.
One of the most troubled properties under the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis will have to wait even longer for much needed repairs after an application error resulted in the state rejecting a request for tax credits.
The city's Historic Preservation Commission and local artists are going to Circuit Court over the definition of a word, the result of which could changes how and when the commission regulates the painting of historic properties.
Although Jeff Huntington's art has popped up in cities across the nation, the work he might be most well known for, here in Annapolis, is a controversial one. The 20-by-50-foot mural Huntington painted on the exterior of tsunami earlier this month pairs images of a golden faced Buddha with a screaming nurse from the massacre scene of a 1925 Soviet silent film. The mural has garnered Huntington both criticism and praise. Some call it "hipster trash" others call it "amazing". Huntington calls it a
Just hours before an Annapolis planning Commission meeting in which critics would detail the potential impacts of the proposed Crystal Spring project, the developers of the site released an updated look at the project that changes its size and scope.
88 Conduit St. is an extreme example of the problems associated with longtime vacancies in the city's Historic District. But it is among as many as 50 properties that fit the definition of a vacant property in the city, according to data included in a 2015 bill sponsored by state Sen. John Astle, D-Annapolis.