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City Council Passes Divisive Garage Resolution

About 50 residents and merchants showed up to speak at a public hearing regarding the proposed construction of a parking garage atop the existing Annapolis City Playground.

A controversial proposal to build a parking garage at the site of a school playground is moving forward.

Following a highly emotional—nearly four-hour—public hearing, the council passed a resolution early Tuesday morning directing the city to negotiate a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Compromise LLC, a local developer that plans to build a parking garage on top of the

The garage, which would also include retail and office space, would allow the city to remove about 200 parking spaces from the city dock to create a more "green" space.

"It's an MOU only that we're voting on," Alderman Fred Paone (R-2nd Ward) said. "It's not a contract per se. It's nothing anywhere near a completed deal."

Alderwoman Classie Hoyle (D-3rd Ward) said she supports the proposed garage. She said she was struck by Compromise LLC's willingness to help the city. The developer intends to privately finance the construction of the garage.

Hoyle said that in the future, 95 percent of the kids using the playground, located on Compromise Street, will forget about it.

"This is the direction we need to go in," Hoyle said. "I think six months from now it won't be an issue."

Mayor Josh Cohen, Alderman Ian Pfeiffer (D-7th Ward) and Alderman Richard Israel (D-1st Ward) voted against the proposal.

Cohen, who had previously supported the proposal, said he now doesn't feel the project is the right use of the space.

"What we need is an overall vision, and a plan to achieve that vision," he said. "Personally, I've come to the conclusion that this isn't right for the site."

City Hall was packed with residents and merchants who attended the public hearing prior to the vote. At one point, Cohen told the crowd that the fire marshal said six people would have to leave the room because it was over capacity.

About 50 people shared testimony before the council.

Orlando Ridout V strongly opposed the proposal because he said it would disrupt a planned $27 million renovation to , which is in front of the playground.

"We have to recognize a train wreck when we see it coming," Ridout said.

Some merchants supported the proposal because they said they feel it could alleviate the loss of parking expected during the renovation of the —located near the center of downtown—scheduled for 2015. The overhaul is expected to take two years to complete, which could hurt the businesses.

Sean O'Neill, president of the Annapolis Business Association, said the garage is critical.

"What we want to make sure we're aware of is that we need convenient parking for a vibrant community," O'Neill said.

Delegate Ron George (R-Arnold) said he doesn't know the issues well enough to take a stance but, as a business owner, he said convenient parking is essential to the survival of businesses.

"Parking has not been an issue lately because there are so many empty storefronts," George said.

Matthew Barry April 25, 2012 at 01:34 AM
If you truly want these morons who supposedly represent the residents of Annapolis to listen... then vote them out!
Janet Norman April 25, 2012 at 01:54 AM
It is a shame Mr. Paone left the School Board meeting before they could tell them how they really felt - No way would the ever go along with this, was their conclusion, along with stated distrust of City statements and permit promises. So, exactly what is there to have an MOU w/ the School Board about? They said no. So.... the waste of City dollars, time, and effort is for what purpose? How attractive is that smaller garage complex on City only property - the playground, bball court,and park? And Ald Hoyle, no developer does things for free, really, we are all paying for the $25 million bond on the Park Place parking garage, what a bargain that turned out to be....
Connie Parks April 25, 2012 at 07:57 PM
" Kids in the future will forget about it"? Kids in the future will forget about open space? In the future these young adults that are witnessing this process will be more aware and more impowered to save and preserve our open spaces. I am going to do my part to stop the distruction of the playground, basketball court, all the surrounding trees, plants and yes, the history of this open space. When we talk about sustainabiliy and making our town "green" we need to start with keeping an area that models this vision.
christine cots April 26, 2012 at 01:46 AM
This is surreal that anyone would try to take that playground away!!! We use it all the time, and it's always busy and where would the school kids take recess????
Genevieve January 01, 2013 at 02:56 PM
I helped build that playground! It was a community rejuvenation project. We are now close to being if not already grandparents, and as such take pride in sharing our contribution to the history of Annapolis, albeit 'recent' history! It is very disconcerting to share with my children stories of what "used to there".

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