Downtown Annapolis' charm is at risk

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A dispute over zoning at the Annapolis City Dock may lead to unintended consequences detrimental to the long-term vitality of our community. In her column on July 12 ("Annapolis whiffs on City Dock again"), Susan Reimer called the Save Annapolis Coalition members some "fusty historic types," and although we are determined to maintain the architectural character and charm of our 300-year–old working maritime port, it's the future that we are focused on.

The height and bulk of buildings in downtown Annapolis have been limited since 1967 to preserve an 18th century architectural scale, which is sometimes called a "human scale" and is what makes the city special; Annapolis is considered beautiful by its visitors and twice has been named one of America's most beautiful small towns by Forbes Magazine. We oppose the zoning ordinance that is in front of the City Council because it carves out an exception to these height and bulk limits and makes an allowance for a modern building with a very large footprint to be constructed right in the center of the historic downtown. Not only will this destroy the historic nature of Annapolis, it will erode cherished community-zoning precedents that have been in place for decades.


The Annapolis business community expects severe economic consequences for downtown businesses if the proposed zoning is approved with out a comprehensive parking plan. Downtown will immediately lose two parking lots, and the Annapolis boat shows, which contribute a minimum of $50 million annually to the local economy, will be marginalized due to reduced exhibit space.

Fewer parking spots and reduced transportation in the City Dock area are harmful to the health of downtown businesses, but they have a particularly negative effect on the residents. The expected crowding and traffic on the residential streets is a major concern for area residents who expect more parked cars in their neighborhoods when drivers can't find parking near the businesses, restaurants and taverns.


In 1987, the city adopted a comprehensive Maritime Zoning plan that still defines a way of life in Annapolis. The proposed ordinance carves out an extraordinary exception to the 1987 law, and we anticipate a cascade of petitions for exceptions that will lead to the erosion, and ultimate destruction, of the maritime industry in our city.

Our 300 year-old tradition of sustaining commercial, historic and maritime activity within one spectacular seaport defines the character and charm of Annapolis and is the attraction people come for. We believe its survival depends upon consistent and stable historic preservation and maritime protection.

The Coalition to Save Annapolis is united against the proposed zoning ordinance O-7-13. This new zoning would govern redevelopment on that site no matter who the developer is, so it is critical that we get it right. We support good development at the Annapolis City Dock, but we believe that this ordinance is premature and implements zoning laws prior to conducting a comprehensive sector study. We feel it is irresponsible to rush significant zoning legislation without appropriate planning. Further, to implement such a zoning district to implement one small part of a flawed master plan that has not yet been adopted has truly put the cart before the horse.

The Coalition's membership includes Annapolis Business Association, Historic Annapolis, Ward One Residents Association, Fleet Reserve Club, Marine Trades Association of Maryland, United States Yacht Shows, Campbell Properties, Annapolis Marine Art, Moyer Consulting, Liquified Creative, Gregory Guzzi Jewlers, The Big Cheese, Studio 50 Design, McGarvey's Saloon, Storm Bros. Ice Cream Factory, Middleton Tavern, O'Brien's Steakhouse, Bay Yacht Agency, Annapolis School of Seamanship, R.A. Noyce and Associates, and Annapolis Landing Marina. Many concerned citizens from Annapolis and the surrounding area are also members.

Heather Ford, Annapolis

The writer is campaign manager of the Coalition to Save Annapolis. She is writing on behalf of the group's steering committee, which includes: The Annapolis Business Association, Historic Annapolis Foundation, Ward One Residential Association, Ed Hartman II of Annapolis Landing Marina, Jane Campbell-Chambliss of Campbell Properties, Lewis Bearden of the Fleet Reserve Club, Alison Ekstrom, Ellen Moyer and Mary Powell.