Residents spent more than four hours Tuesday night asking the city of Annapolis' Board of Appeals (BOA) to delay, modify or reject the proposed development of 39 acres adjacent to Quiet Waters Park.
But before public testimony could begin, attorney Jerome Feldman, representing the developer, said he believed most of the testimony from the public would go beyond the scope of the board's jurisdiction.
Feldman said, "Any testimony related anything other than Chapter 21 would lack relevance."
Chapter 21 is a zoning code "adopted for the purpose of promoting the public health, safety and general welfare of the citizens of the City of Annapolis," according to city documents.
BOA chair Christian Elkington said he would note the objection, but he felt it was important to hear what the public had to say, especially given the strong emotions of several audience members.
"The BOA is well versed in what testimony is relevant to the board, and what weight that testimony will be given," Elkington said. "I think it’s the only way to get a complete record before the Board of Appeals."
Annapolis Environmental Commission Chair Diane Butler spoke first.
Her two main points—which fall within the jurisdiction of the board—were: The development was not named specifically in the Annapolis Comprehensive Plan, and the development would cut down enough trees to harm the city's goal of achieving a 50 percent tree canopy by 2036.
"The impact of clearing over 12 acres of forest on that site is very significant because the city doesn’t have a lot of other space to increase the tree canopy elsewhere," Butler said.
Feldman cross examined Butler after she spoke, and the exchange quickly grew heated. He repeatedly asked her if she had read the recommendation of the Planning Commission.
"The report recommendation to this board by the Planning Commission and the report recommendation by the Planning Board both indicated that it meets guidelines and was in the plan," Feldman said.
The Planning Commission approved the the Reserve at Quiet Waters in September 2011 with 48 conditions.
Butler responded that she disagreed with the findings of the Planning Commission on the matter.
She said several audience members helped to develop the city's Comprehensive Plan, and she assured Feldman that they did not intend for there to be a development of this scale on the property.
A number of people who spoke voiced concerns about how the development would impact the bird population in Quiet Waters Park.
Ross Geredien, an environmental scientists specializing in landscape ecology, said that forested buffers along the edge of the park contribute to the breeding success of several species of birds that currently call Quiet Waters Park home.
Other concerns were raised about quality of life issues once the new homes were filled with new families.
Janet Norman lives on Annapolis Neck Road, which would become the main exit for the proposed development.
She said the intersection of Annapolis Neck Road and Forest Drive already makes for a "death defying" turn, and she thinks a traffic light is absolutely necessary before anyone moves in.
Norman also said she worried about the children in the new community being slated to attend Hillsmere Elementary.
"The county council has closed the Hillsmere Elementary school district for development," Norman said. "You’re placing 600 people into the Hillsmere school district that is already over capacity."
The BOA said a decision will be announced at a hearing tentatively scheduled for the end of June.
In addition to the appeal filed with the BOA, an appeal has also been filed with the Building Board of Appeals because environmentalists argue that the Southwest portion of the development would be built on a priority forest area.
A hearing for that appeal has yet to be scheduled.