An Annapolis resident made an emotional appeal to the City Council last night for permission to convert his home near City Dock into three apartments despite objections from city planners.
James Brianas, a management consultant and instructor at the University of Maryland, said the apartments on Compromise Street are for himself, his 23-year-old son's family and his mother, whom he would like to bring to the area.
"My sons will not be able to afford to live in the area we currently live" if the house cannot be converted, said Mr. Brianas, whose voice welled up with emotion as he introduced his five sons and wife to the council.
Eileen Fogarty, director of the city Department of Planning and Zoning, said the conversion of Mr. Brianas' house to multifamily homes would destroy the "character and stability" of the area, which includes St. Mary's and Duke of Glouster streets, as a neighborhood of owner-occupied, single-family homes.
Already, that trend on other downtown blocks has pushed up the number of cars in the community, making parking more scarce, she said.
The recently approved Ward I Sector Study of the downtown area specifically lists Mr. Brianas' block as an "at risk neighborhood" that should be preserved, Ms. Fogarty said.
The Ward I Residents Association also opposed the project, arguing that it could create a domino effect and allow future owners of an adjacent vacant lot to build eight apartments there.
"Once this goes through, that block will essentially be rezoned for multifamily homes," said Ward I president Tom Davies.
Mr. Brianas, who is president-elect of the Ward I association, and his consultants countered that Compromise Street is mostly commercial, noting that a yacht club, a six-story hotel and offices lie directly across the street from his home. Next door is a four-unit condominium complex.
The council could make a decision at its Nov. 8 meeting.
In other business, the legislation was introduced that would allow the city to borrow $3.7 million on the bond market to convert the old Wiley H. Bates High School into a senior citizens center, to install several traffic lights, including one at Forest and Newtowne drives, and to improve the city's public water and sewerage.
Mayor Al Hopkins said he hopes to use about $300,000 of the money as leverage to convince Anne Arundel County to give the school to the city for use as a senior center. He said he hopes to get additional money from the county and state to renovate completely the school and possibly build up to 40 apartments that could be rented to seniors on fixed incomes.
The boarded-up brick building, once home to the county's only public high school for black students, has stood empty since 1981.
The council also heard public testimony on legislation that would exempt the Anne Arundel County Courthouse from many of the restrictions of the Historic District, allowing the county to move forward with a planned expansion, and ban neon signs in most cases within the district.
Ms. Fogarty said neon signs would not be permitted on the exterior of buildings, but would be allowed inside under certain circumstances.