Aldermen to decide land-rights dispute


The Annapolis city council was drawn last night into a feud over a piece of land that has divided a small community in Eastport and left many residents there wondering about the value of their property and their rights as landowners.

The debate occupied the aldermen for several hours and upstaged consideration of the city's capital improvement budget, which late last night still had not made it to the floor for consideration.

Instead, the aldermen were considering a land war between the Henson family and the Ambridge housing complex. At issue is the fate of a plot of land owned by the Hensons that abuts the development on Bay Ridge Avenue.

After debating the future of the land privately and before the city's Planning and Zoning Department for a year, both sides have reached an impasse. Last night, both sides asked the City Council to resolve the matter.

The Hensons, who trace their roots in Annapolis from the early 1900s, hope to develop the land at 2100 Bay Ridge Ave. Marva L. Henson, who owns a house on the front lot, hopes to get permission from the city to subdivide the property so that two of her sons can build homes there.

"I want to leave my children something so that they can become homeowners," Ms. Henson said. "All I'm asking is for City Council to give us a variance so my sons can be homeowners and taxpayers in the city of Annapolis."

But Ambridge residents say Ms. Henson's plans to subdivide the land will cause overcrowding and property values to drop. They also worry that the family will sell the developed land and that the new houses will block routes used by fire trucks.

Richard L. Hillman, planning commission chairman and a former mayor of Annapolis, supports the Ambridge residents.

"The basic concern is the lots are going to be so small, it will effect the property values," Mr. Hillman said. He called the plans for the new houses "substandard."

The council had not finished hearing testimony from both sides by late last night. The council planned to decide the matter at its May 8 meeting.

Late last night, the council was expected to consider the proposed five-year, $20 million capital improvement budget for fiscal 1996.

The spending blueprint includes a proposal to spend $250,000 to reconstruct City Dock. Although Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins sought $750,000, the council was expected to approve the lesser amount. Earlier this spring, the General Assembly voted to appropriate $250,000 for the project.

The City Dock project calls for widened sidewalks, replacement of bulkheads and pilings, and construction of a walkway by the water's edge. Annapolis officials hope to complete the $10 million renovation of the waterfront before the Whitbread Round the World Race arrives in Annapolis in April 1998.

The council also was expected to decide whether to jump-start 1998 funding for renovations in the Clay Street area. One plan would appropriate $2 million for upgrades at the Stanton Center, a community facility in a neighborhood hard hit by illegal drugs and crime.

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