Annapolis residents raise concerns about planned office building at Quiet Waters Park

Anne Arundel residents voiced concerns Tuesday about plans to construct an office building near Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis.

They argued at the first County Council meeting of the year that the Earl Conservation Center, an office space slated to be built for the Chesapeake Conservancy and other environmental groups on a 5-acre parcel abutting the park, will disrupt views of the South River.


Ray Sullivan, a Friends of Quiet Waters Park board member, explained why the nonprofit advocacy group opposes the development.

“The building will dominate the site and block the public’s view,” Sullivan said, adding that the parking spaces and roads in the proposal will disrupt the natural flow of the park.

Rendering of the proposed Earl Conservation Center at Quiet Waters.

Another speaker, Karl Hauss, said he’s lived across from the park since 1980 and values the uninterrupted view.

“I walk my dogs there probably every day and it’s beautiful,” Hauss said. “It’s a beautiful view and the animals are there. It’s incredible. As Joni Mitchell would say, ‘Why would you want to pave paradise and put up a parking lot?’ It’s disgusting.”

Both speakers promoted a public meeting at 6 p.m. Jan. 20 at Bay Ridge Christian Church in Annapolis to further discuss the issue.

The public testimony raised many of the same issues as a Dec. 17 opinion column in The Capital opposing the plan.

The office building was part of an agreement between the county and the conservancy, which offered to help the county buy 19 acres adjoining the park. In exchange for the $2 million the group put toward the purchase, County Executive Steuart Pittman introduced a bill allowing the Chesapeake Conservation Center, a subsidiary of the Chesapeake Conservancy, to lease 5 acres for $1 a year for 30 years. The remainder of the site would be open to the public for hiking and other activities. The County Council unanimously passed the bill in March.

Council member Lisa Rodvien, a Democrat who represents the Annapolis area, said others have asked her about the office building. She said some residents raising concerns about the project may be lacking some context.

The county was only able to acquire the 19 acres because the Chesapeake Conservancy pitched in the money and helped shepherd federal funds to cover the $8 million purchase price. The conservancy’s $2 million came from a donation from local philanthropists James and Sylvia Earl who dreamed of building the center and protecting the rest of the space from development, according to their son Matthew Earl.

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“We wouldn’t have the land if it weren’t for the Chesapeake Conservancy,” Rodvien said.

Rendering of the proposed Earl Conservation Center at Quiet Waters.

While the original plan was to allow the conservancy to refurbish buildings on the property to use as office space, one of the buildings was damaged during a September 2020 tornado while the main building was destroyed by arson in October 2020. The county then had to rethink how to uphold its promise and allowed the conservancy to develop a new building of its own.

“The buildings that were there from the farm were right on the water. The new building is significantly farther back so it’s farther away from the most critically sensitive parts of the property,” Rodvien said.

Before the land was purchased by the county in 2019, it was owned by private developers who planned to build mansions there, Rodvien said.

“The people that live close by would have lost all access to that land,” she said.

Rendering of the proposed Earl Conservation Center at Quiet Waters.

Chesapeake Conservancy President and CEO Joel Dunn reminded residents that office space for the conservancy was always part of the purchase plan and it will be minimally disruptive to their lives.

“We are rebuilding at a site that is farther away from the water, with a smaller footprint and is in a less environmentally sensitive area,” Dunn said in an email.