Protesters Delay Vote on Quiet Waters Development
A lengthy planning commission meeting carried into the morning hours before being delayed for more than a month.
Protesters of a residential development planned adjacent to Quiet Waters Park effectively filibustered a vote at the Annapolis Planning Commission Thursday night.
There were only two items on Thursday’s planning commission agenda, but the meeting was adjourned a few minutes after midnight after commissioners said they weren’t up for any more talking. Their vote was rescheduled to September.
“I’m not at my sharpest any longer,” said Commissioner Wilford Scott before seconding a motion to adjourn.
The development in question, The Reserve at Quiet Waters, proposes to bring 158 residential units to a 39-acre lot along Annapolis Neck Road, adjacent to Quiet Waters Park.
Among the options for the development’s entrances is expanding Annapolis Neck Road to the south, tying in to Hillsmere Drive near the entrance at Quiet Waters Park.
Dozens of area residents gathered at City Hall, waiting more than two-and-a-half hours for a chance to speak on the matter. When planning commissioners finally opened the public hearing, more than a dozen residents spoke on traffic and environmental concerns around the development.
Two hours later, the commission adjourned before the property owner and his cadre of developers could make their presentation. That part of the meeting was moved to Sept. 1—the next opportunity a public hearing could be scheduled.
Large Area ‘Environmentally Sensitive’
Tom Smith, of the city’s planning department, recommended the approval of the development’s plans, but with about 40 conditions, including securing plans for improvements along Annapolis Neck Road, and addressing what staff considered to be “environmentally sensitive areas” scattered around the southern end of the site.
Diane Butler, a nearby resident, said that according to a recent survey of the property conducted by an environmental expert from the Smithsonian Institute, nearly half of the proposed development would reside in these sensitive regions.
She recommended cutting the 158-unit proposal by 20-30 units to lessen the environmental impact.
“We feel there are probably some additional ways to preserve this development and do some changes that might sound substantial to the developer, but are minor to a lot of the citizens that live there for a greater outcome,” she said.
That same survey indicated environmental buffers of more than 300 feet were needed around the property. But some planning commissioners said that wasn’t feasible.
“If we were to enforce the correct buffers, the site may be undevelopable,” said Commissioner James Urban.
Several residents concerned over the impact of the development pointed to potential hydrological impacts at Quiet Waters Park if the plan moved forward unmitigated.
“Quiet Waters Park is a jewel," said Rick Kissell. "Let’s not tarnish it by what’s done next door.”
Ted Weber said the housing development would inevitably have some impact on the park.
“Quiet Waters Park seems to have been forgotten in this process,” he said. “It seems to have been relegated to a pathway for vehicles. But it’s one of the most significant resources in the Annapolis area.”
New Light Proposed on Forest Drive
Another hot issue Thursday was the impact the development would have on traffic in the area.
Rodney Plourde, a traffic consultant for the city, said the development would increase the volume of traffic on nearby Forest Drive by less than 2 percent, which includes an additional 1,388 trips along the roadway.
However, those turning left out of Annapolis Neck Road could wait up to two to three minutes before getting their chance to turn onto Forest Drive unless a change was made.
“We all know what the problem is—high volume and high speeds,” Plourde said.
Earlier in the meeting, Mayor Josh Cohen spoke regarding this subject, saying that he would not recommend a traffic light be installed, despite the concerns over that intersection. He suggested another outlet along Forest Drive, but without a traffic signal.
“It’s a choice between two unfavorable options,” he said. “But from the community’s perspective, the last thing we want to do is create more undue delays on Forest Drive.”
Several residents, including Janet Norman of Annapolis Neck Road, would later criticize Cohen’s stance. She called trying to cross Forest Drive without a light a “death-defying” act.
Options for traffic mitigation included a new signal at the intersection of Annapolis Neck Road and Forest Drive, a system that would synchronize with other lights in the region to ensure smooth passage, and the connection with Hillsmere Drive through the entrance at Quiet Waters Park.
Plourde said he reserved judgment on these options until the developers could provide some more information on how they could be achieved.
“We maintain serious concerns because of the high speeds on Forest Drive,” he said.
QW Properties LLC and Chesapeake Realty Partners will make their presentation of the development at the Sept. 1 meeting of the planning commission. Commissioners also invited back the residents who spoke at Thursday’s meeting, given their expansive knowledge of the area.
The planning commission’s vote is scheduled to come on the same night. If it recommends approval, it would then be up to the City Council to make the final determination later this year.
* Editor's note: This story has been changed to include the correct spelling of Ted Weber.