Officials from from Annapolis and the Anne Arundel County School Board are going to continue talking about the possibility of building of parking garage near Annapolis Elementary School.
But the project is just short of an official memorandum of understanding between the city and the school system that would allow the project to officially move forward.
The city wants to build a parking garage along Compromise Street partially where the public playground and a portion of the school’s play area currently stand.
The project quickly met with opposition from parents and residents who started a petition against the garage and to keep the playground as part of any project that proceeds.
City officials are hoping to cooperate with the school board and build the garage in conjunction with an upcoming renovation and expansion of the school.
The school board did not sign a memorandum, but instead agreed to continue to have staff members work with city officials.
Board President Patricia Nalley, along with several other members, said the students are their foremost concern—especially their safety.
The goal is for the two parties to meet again at the next school board meeting in two weeks to possibly sign a memorandum.
So, even though Mayor Josh Cohen left Wednesday’s school board meeting empty-handed, he said the discussion is moving in the right direction.
“This is the first time we formally sat down to discuss it,” Cohen said after the meeting. “Some of their concerns are spot on. Hopefully, we can address some of those concerns and come back in two weeks and get a memorandum of understanding.”
But that’s one of the last things the Annapolis Elementary Parent-Teacher Association wants to see. Sarah Williamson spoke to the board on behalf of the PTA, laying out a list of complaints and concerns, including safety and health issues, concerning the garage.
“We are incredulous that either the city or the board would believe that a large parking garage is a suitable neighbor for the only available outdoor play area of an elementary school,” Williamson said. “We beg you not to diminish the long-awaited positive impact of this revitalization on the children of Annapolis Elementary School. Please say no to the city’s proposal for a Compromise Street garage on Board of Education property."
Cohen said the plan for the garage is part of an effort to remove an undetermined number of parking spots from the City Dock area.
Still, the city does not have specific plans in place, though some ideas include the garage having retail on the ground floor along Compromise Street.
Cohen said one thing is certain: Whatever the plan, a “robust and adequate” playground must be a part of the project.
“We must work out a relationship that fits the city’s needs and the Board of Education’s needs,” he said during the meeting.
Alderman Sheila Finlayson, who also attended the school board meeting, echoed the mayor’s sentiments.
“The idea is that we satisfy everyone’s needs before we move forward,” she told the board.
Cohen said should the plan move forward the city would create a citizens’ stakeholders committee, including the PTA, business owners and historic preservation officials.
Board member Deborah Ritchie said regardless of whether the board signs a memorandum, it does not constitute an endorsement.
“It does not necessarily mean we support a parking structure,” she said.