Affordable home builders speak out against Annapolis school capacity legislation

Danielle Ohl
Contact Reporterdohl@capgaznews.com

Builders testified Monday night to oppose legislation that would close schools at 95 percent capacity to nearby development.

The ordinance, proposed by city aldermen Ross Arnett, Marc Rodriguez and Rob Savidge, amends the city’s adequate public facilities code to shut down development projects of 11 units or more that would serve schools at 95 percent capacity within three years. Schools currently close at 105 and 120 percent capacity for elementary and middle and high schools respectively.

Attorneys and developers working on affordable housing projects testified against the legislation for what they said would be irreparable impact to the Annapolis economy.

The legislation would “reduce future property tax growth down to a trickle,” said Steven Hyatt, an Annapolis real-estate broker and attorney. A large portion of the city’s revenue comes from property taxes paid by residents. New residential developments would be stymied in districts where schools are determined “closed.”

A project on 2010 West Street to create affordable town-homes that rent at 51 to 57 percent below market rate would be stopped by the capacity bill. David Uram, a principal of PIRHL developers, testified against the legislation as it’s now written.

"This (adequate public facilities) legislation will kill us — we will be done,” Uram said. He urged that the city needs housing that the city’s workers can afford. “These folks are being left behind in your community,” he said.

Uram and other representatives of the 2010 West Street project asked for a “carve-out” for workforce housing in the city modeled after similar legislation passed in Howard County.

The Lofts at Eastport Landing, Central Park, Chesapeake Grove and other West Street projects would be affected by closed capacity schools in Annapolis.

Annapolis attorney David Katz also spoke against the legislation as restrictive and exclusionary to minority communities. Hispanic and Latino and black communities make significantly less on average than white communities in Annapolis, Katz said, and the legislation would block them from living in the city.

Alderman Arnett weighed in, thanking those who testified, but reminding them to think of the students attending overcrowded schools.

The City Council voted to postpone restrictions surrounding abandoned vehicles. The measure would grant a police-authorized entity to remove inoperable or wrecked cars and establish a process for appealing an improperly removed vehicle. The city approved a fine against owners who abandon their junked or inoperable vehicles.

The legislation, an ordinance and accompanying resolution sponsored by Alderwoman Elly Tierney, would allow Police Chief Scott Baker to designate an “authorized agent,” likely parking vendor SP+, to remove inoperable or junked vehicles from city streets or highways. The accompanying resolution, as amended, institutes a $50 fine for first offense with escalating fees for subsequent offenses.

As part of the consent calendar, the council passed on first reader an ordinance and accompanying resolution that would make it illegal to use the city’s official emblem without permission. The legislation is largely aimed at fraudulent Instagram accounts claiming to be the official page of Annapolis and using the city’s official seal, said Savidge, who sponsored the bills. There are at least two accounts — @annapolismd and @cityofannapolismd — using the official seal without permission.

The city has no official Instagram account, said city spokeswoman Susan O’Brien.

This post has been updated to correct the percentage at which schools are closed to development.

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