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Amid protests, symbolic move could convince Md. to lease space at City Dock

The Baltimore Sun

The Annapolis City Council has formally expressed support for building a National Sailing Hall of Fame on City Dock, giving momentum to the project even as preservationists have decried any plan to raze, move or alter a historic waterfront home on the site.

The resolution sponsored by Mayor Ellen O. Moyer, a strong proponent of the estimated $20 million museum, passed 6-3 Monday night in a symbolic gesture that could convince the state, which owns the property, to offer a long-term lease. The state Department of Planning is expected to make a recommendation on the issue within 90 days.

"We're pleased. It gives us the opportunity to take the next step," said Richard Franyo, president of the board of the Hall of Fame and owner of the Boatyard Bar & Grill in Eastport.

Lee Tawney, executive director of the National Sailing Hall of Fame, said the group plans "an adaptive reuse" of the Capt. William H. Burtis House, built in 1875. It still has some of its original detailing but has flooded in recent years. Tawney could not elaborate on what the reuse would entail, but he said his group is willing to consult with the Maryland Historical Trust and other interested parties.

A state-commissioned report released in December recommended the demolition or relocation of the home as the most cost-effective way to proceed with plans for the interactive museum.

Alderman Samuel E. Shropshire, who voted for the mayor's resolution, defended the National Sailing Hall of Fame's lack of a detailed architectural plan.

"To require people to spend exorbitant amounts of money on a design without even having the city's assurances that they want a National Sailing Hall of Fame is a bit ludicrous," said Shropshire, a Ward 7 Democrat.

Alderman Frederick M. Paone, a Ward 2 Republican who voted against the mayor's measure, said while he had "strong support" for the museum's concept, the location was inappropriate. He cited unknown factors such as the amount of parking and the effect on the Burtis home, which he called a historically significant structure.

"If I were to come before this body as an attorney and I cannot provide any sketches, I think I would get nine stares of disbelief," said Paone, who is also a prosecutor.

He added, "If this doesn't succeed financially, who's going to be bailing this National Sailing Hall of Fame out, the city or the state? We can't afford it."

Alderwoman Julie N. Stankivic, an independent from Ward 6, also voted no. "We have something very special here," she said, "and I don't want to see us ever lose it."

The third opposing vote came from Alderman Richard Israel, a Democrat who represents downtown. He had submitted a resolution to support the museum coming to Annapolis, but he advocated against putting it on City Dock and supports its compliance with the city's historic ordinance. It failed to pass on Monday night.

William R. Powell, 65, a great-great-grandson of Burtis and a tugboat captain from Eastport, has formed the nonprofit Friends of Captain William H. Burtis House Historic Trust LLC and is lobbying the state to postpone granting a lease.

"I don't think this is over by a long shot. That's just the first round," Powell said after Monday night's vote. "I hope the state's more intelligent than the city."

Brian Miller, president of the Ward One Residents Association, whose board protested the museum's location as an assault on the Burtis house, was more optimistic: "We feel much better now that there's an effort to save the Burtis house, which wasn't originally on the radar."

An article in the April 16 edition of the Anne Arundel section of The Sun about the National Sailing Hall of Fame proposal misidentified the Ward One Residents Association president. He is Doug Smith. The Sun regrets the error.
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