The TriRock Triathlon is coming to Annapolis on Saturday. While some say they are glad to see it come, many downtown residents and business owners aren’t too happy and are asking city officials to take a closer look at their policies for bringing events downtown.
Though it wasn’t on the agenda, many people attended Monday’s meeting of the Annapolis City Council to express concerns.
The event starts off with a 500-meter swim and continues with a 12.4-mile bike ride that starts in the city’s historic district along King George Street and will make two loops around a part of Route 450 that overlooks the Severn River, ending back at City Dock, according to a recent news release. The event will conclude with a 5K run through downtown.
As of last week, the event already had more than 1,000 registered participants, said Dana Allen, a vice president with Competitor group, the company organizing the event. The event could also bring about 2000 spectators downtown, the release stated.
But many who showed up to city hall on Monday night said they weren’t given any notice.
“We’re gonna be prisoners in our house,” said Michael Farmer, a resident of Prince George Street.
Farmer complained that just days before the race, he hadn’t received any information about a parking plan.
“I don’t see the benefit of blocking up the town for the residents...,” said Bevin Buchheister, president of the Ward One Residents Association, who spoke of the benefits of having the event somewhere outside of the city, such as Sandy Point State Park.
Peggy Summers, who owns Gibson’s Lodgings, was concerned about how guests would be able to get in and out of the bed and breakfast by car.
Other complaints focused on the event's organizer, Competitor Group, being a San Diego-based company instead of a local business.
“It troubles me deeply to suggest that we are unknown people to the community,” said Ashley Halsey, president of the Annapolis Triathlon Club, which supports the event and has worked closely with the group to bring it here.
Others joined Halsey in voicing their support for the race.
“We just want to go out, have fun, be healthy ... that’s really all we want to do,” said Jennifer Bornemann, an Eastport resident and member of the Annapolis Triathlon Club.
“Having returned to Annapolis after 12 years, I’ve been a bit saddened by what’s happened to downtown and I’ve looked forward to this as a way to help bolster the economy down here,” she said.
Also present Monday night was Zach Barnhorst, operations manager with Competitor Group and the race director for this event.
Barnhorst said he wanted to address some of the “misinformation” he has seen circulated among residents about the triathlon.
“We put these races on and when we do, we come into town and we really try to make a connection with the community immediately,” he said.
“By no means are we trying to just go in and just follow our own agenda without regard for the local businesses,” he said, adding that the organizers have been working closely with the Annapolis Business Association and other local groups.
The one thing many agreed on Monday, however, is the need to establish a policy for handling events such as this in the future.
Jennifer Kirkpatrick, a downtown resident and triathlon supporter, plans to participate in in the competition Saturday. She said she just heard about the competition and expressed the need to get the word out sooner.
“I think that from a resident’s perspective, you definitely need to provide information,” she said.
Mayor Josh Cohen was receptive to the feedback and addressed it after the public testimony.
“This is an area that the council needs to be involved in establishing what the city’s policy should be for events ...,” he said.
“Like I said, to the extent that people were not notified, residents, businesses, the buck stops with me, I take full responsibility,” he said after the meeting.
Cohen said the event wasn’t brought before the full council because it doesn't require a lease.
“It does not require a lease and the law office determined that what it needed was a use permit,” he said.
He said because this was determined, it only would have come before the council for a vote if there were a waiver of fees, which in this case, there is not. He added that the two council members in the wards affected were notified. Alderman Dick Israel (D-1st Ward) opposed it and wrote a letter going on record, Cohen said.
“Instead of just saying 'no,' I want to change the culture of 'no' at city hall and find a way to make it work,” he said.
“It was kind of a surprise,” said Alderman Ross Arnett (D-8th Ward) of the event. “And I don’t understand why it was done this way,” adding that with the 2007 triathlon, the issue was voted on by the council, with work sessions, committee meetings, etc.
“I’m not saying that way is the right way to do it and this way isn’t, I’m just saying that we need to be in the loop, particularly since when things don’t go well we definitely hear it from our constituents.”
"Zero Dollar Impact on City"
As of Monday afternoon, the estimated initial cost to the city was about $9,950, according to Phill McGowan, public information officer for the city of Annapolis. This will be reimbursed by the organizer after the event, city officials said.
“The cost of this race is going to have zero dollar impact on the city,” said Michelle LeFurge, special projects coordinator for the city of Annapolis, adding that she has been in constant contact with each of the city departments to determine how much the event will cost them.
Race Details/Road Closures
According to its website, the event starts at 7 a.m. Saturday.
According to a recent news release from the city of Annapolis, all streets are scheduled to reopen at 10a.m. except for the following: Dock Street and Craig Street which is expected to reopen at noon; additionally Prince George Street between Craig Street and Annapolis Harbor is expected to reopen at 4 p.m.
Residents living in the historic area are being asked to park for free in the Bladen Street Garage, McGowan said. There will also be 27 residential spaces available along Maryland Avenue.
McGowan said the city is aware that some people have disabilities and may be unable to park so far away from there homes. He added that the city is seeking accommodations on a case by case basis. People with such concerns can call Michelle LeFurge at 410-263-7996.
A list of road closures and a course map, as provided on the event website, accompanies this story. For additional information, visit the official TriRock website here. Additional information about road closures is available on the city's website here.
Editors Note: This article was updated Thursday to include updated information from the city of Annapolis about road closures.