In September 1987, the city dedicated a playground to the children of Annapolis. And now, the city council is wrestling with a decision to take it back.
Residents gathered at the Annapolis City Playground—located on Compromise Steet—on Monday to protest a proposal to build a parking garage on top of that space.
"One of the biggest selling points for us to move to Annapolis was that park," said Brandi McKeating, who attended the rally. "We love the city, we love the downtown area. We wanted to live in an urban environment, but we also wanted an open space for the kids to play."
Julie Davis echoed McKeating's sentiments and added that a parking garage isn't necessary.
"I can always find a [parking] spot," Davis said. "Having a garage here would be such an eyesore. This is the only place like this that the kids have."
Orlando Ridout V, an architectural historian, said he is a member of a city subcommittee looking to determine what should happen with the space. But, he said, the committee held only one meeting before Compromise LLC, a local developer, presented the garage proposal.
"The design, it was clear, [the developers] were simply assuming they could get special treatment on all zoning, height and bulk requirements," Ridout said. "It was clear that the children's needs for this site was an afterthought, rather than a key consideration in the plan."
Following the protest, the city council held an emergency session where Compromise LLC representatives were invited to talk about the project to provide more information to the council members. The public was not invited to speak at the session, nor was a vote taken.
Mayor Josh Cohen said there would be a public hearing before a vote is taken.
Alderman Ross Arnett, of Ward 8, said that he and Alderwoman Sheila Finlayson, of Ward 4, have been actively involved with the project and hoped this meeting would help bring the other council members up to speed.
He added that making progress on the issue is critical because, if the proposal is passed, the city would need to work around the Board of Education's schedule, with students' vacation times being taken into consideration.
According to a presentation made by Jerry Parks and Doug Smith of Compromise LLC, the proposal also includes plans to build a new 10,900 square foot playground near the City Dock.
Chris Stelzig, the Annapolis Elementary School PTA president, said he is not hopeful about this plan. He is also concerned about the safety aspect of having children roam around near the City Dock.
"The city has a terrible track record of promising and then not delivering," Stelzig said.