The fight over late-night bar closings in downtown Annapolis could threaten a plan some consider the final word in controlling development in the historic district.
Alderman Shep Tullier plans to introduce a resolution Monday to renegotiate the Ward 1 Sector Study, a delicate compromise drafted in 1993 by residents, business owners, tourism officials and restaurateurs in the historic district.
The 4th Ward Democrat said there is no harm in allowing residents to review the future of downtown development given the changes since the sector study was approved -- such as a $5 million project on Main Street, the arrival of sidewalk cafes, and ever-increasing pressures on traffic and parking in the historic district.
"It's probably the perfect time to revisit it," said Mr. Tullier.
Alderman Carl O. Snowden, a 5th Ward Democrat, agreed.
"I don't see how having a new study can hurt," said Mr. Snowden.
"The fact that the city has already approved changes downtown since that study proves that it was never written in stone."
The council votes Monday on bills relating to one of the cornerstones of the sector study -- the portion that limits to 12 the number of downtown restaurants that can stay open until 2 a.m.
The debate over the bills to expand late-night closings has brought the sector study, dubbed by some as "the golden compromise," into question.
That plan, written by 32 people, was endorsed by the council in 1993 and written into law in smaller pieces over the next year.
Some aldermen said tinkering with pieces of the compromise could unravel the entire agreement.
"That was a hard-fought compromise," said Alderman Louise Hammond, a Democrat who represents the 1st Ward historic district. "How much are we willing to start fooling with here?"
Annapolis lawyer Kathryn Dahl questioned whether the council was trying to create a new sector study panel that would endorse more late-night closings downtown -- a compromise considered taboo by the last committee.
"Why put it back to the sector study? Just to get the result they want, I guess," said Ms. Dahl, a resident who helped write the first agreement.
Alderman Dean Johnson, a 2nd Ward independent, said Mr. Tullier's resolution might serve a purely political purpose by postponing the vote on allowing more late-night closings and saving face for aldermen who are worried the legislation won't pass.
Mr. Tullier said the council would appoint a second sector study committee of roughly a dozen people -- a combination of new and old panel members -- who would meet over 90 days and develop new regulations for downtown traffic, parking, closing times and other issues.
Mr. Tullier said he would complete his proposal in the coming days, and added that he hoped the committee would offer its recommendations to the council by Feb. 15.
Some members of the original panel cautioned that the process would be complicated.
The compromises in the plan are stacked like dominoes -- renegotiate one and the rest fall, they said.
"The sector study was a series of close votes and a lot of give and take," said Mike Riordan, owner of Riordan's Saloon. "You might end up having to reconsider the whole package."