Agency won't revisit courthouse decision Building planned in historic district


Annapolis' Historic District Commission refused yesterday to reconsider its decision to allow a 250,000-square-foot Circuit Courthouse in the Historic District, despite preservationists' pleas that the complex be broken up into three buildings.

Instead, the commission endorsed architect Howard Melton's plans, requested by the commission, that provide more open space and landscaping around the building's perimeter. The plans approved yesterday change the basic design submitted by Mr. Melton and approved last month.

"It's going in the right direction," said Donna M. Ware, who heads the commission.

"I'm disappointed," said Roberto E. Sackett, director of preservation services for Historic Annapolis. Because of some confusion over where last month's meeting was to be held, the preservationist group was not able to present its views before the commission voted.

"We have always been sympathetic to the courthouse being downtown," Mr. Sackett said. "We happen to think that the building should take a different shape and form than the county does."

Representatives of Historic Annapolis brought two site drawings to the administrative hearing yesterday that they said would reduce the bulk of the building, which as it is now designed will take up most of the block on Church Circle.

"We would like to see it slightly higher. It would work better on the site," said Ann Fligsten, executive director of Historic Annapolis.

But the idea of taller buildings did not sit well with some commission members.

"These are going to be high-rise buildings. These are going to be two massive buildings that are going to be introduced into Annapolis," Ms. Ware said.

The first drawing featured the historic 1824 courthouse, which will be preserved, and two new buildings that would be separated by walkways. The buildings would be connected by underground walkways.

The second drawing showed the new complex as one building, as the county's design is now, with an entrance on Franklin Street off a long courtyard next to Mount Moriah Church.

The commission, which must approve building projects in the Historic District, voted last month to approve the size, scale and relationship to the surrounding area of the $43 million courthouse. Yesterday, the commission stuck by that vote and declined to consider Historic Annapolis' plans.

Mr. Sackett said he was especially frustrated that Historic Annapolis' ideas did not seem to get a fair hearing. "However it goes up, it seems like the process is the problem," he said.

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