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Proposal targets density limits


Two Annapolis city council members are seeking to limit the density of developments along the outer West Street corridor, where major office and residential projects are fast overshadowing older homes and storefronts.

Prompted by concerns that the thoroughfare is being overdeveloped, Aldermen Josh Cohen and Samuel E. Shropshire have proposed an ordinance that will seek to limit the density of multifamily developments to 35 units per acre, a 20 percent reduction from current standards.

This latest proposal comes as two major projects begin to take shape at West Street and Spa Road: a headquarters for Severn Savings Bank, and the $200 million Park Place development, which will include a Westin Hotel, offices, condominiums and shops. About a mile away, crews are building a major retail-residential project at the intersection of West Street and Chinquapin Round Road.

The council took action last year to curb development on "Inner West Street," from Church Circle to West Gate Circle at Spa Road. The proposal to be discussed Monday would apply to the section of West Street from Legion Avenue to just past Solomons Island Road, as well as to Chinquapin Round Road.

The changes -- which were not applied to several properties with plans already in the works -- restrict the height and size of new buildings, limit the distribution of liquor licenses that are effective until 2 a.m. and regulate building demolition.

"The city has wanted to encourage redevelopment on West Street for a long time," said Cohen, an Eastport Democrat. "The pendulum has kind of been over on the super pro-development side for a while, and this proposal just seeks to bring it back to a middle ground."

Mike Miron, Annapolis' economic development coordinator, said some concerns about development in Annapolis are overwrought, particularly on the outer West corridor, because planned road improvements to reduce traffic have yet to be installed.

"I don't think it's a bad thing," Miron said. "But the planning department will need to do some projections for what this will mean for other sites on outer West Street."

Cohen said the 35 units-per-acre figure was suggested by Jon Arason, director of the city's planning and zoning department. Cohen said it would surprise him if developers were to oppose the ordinance, because the number was chosen to be a compromise and it wouldn't affect any proposed projects.

Cohen singled out the Westbridge mixed-use development at 1901 West St. as an example of a higher-density development that would have been reduced under the legislation. Still, he said the mixed-use nature of Westbridge is ideal because it will allow people to live and shop in the same place, possibly reducing the number of cars on the road.

The hulking Westbridge development, which is under construction and covers most of the site of a former lumber yard, will have about 180,000 square feet of retail space, more than 300 condominiums and a parking garage.

The current density allowed in the corridor -- dubbed the "Business Corridor Enhancement Zoning District" -- is 60 units per acre for multifamily dwellings. There is also an exception for developments that sell moderately priced units. Under the new ordinance, developments such as Westbridge would be allowed only 240 units.

Cohen said the draft ordinance comes at an important time in the city, when skyrocketing property values will likely lead to redevelopment of many properties on outer West Street.

"I'm concerned about overdevelopment in general and even though I represent Eastport, the people I represent drive throughout Annapolis, too," he said. "Our roads are already over capacity. We do want to encourage redevelopment of outer West Street, but it needs to be within reason. Smart growth should not mean too much growth."

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