City officials and builders of a proposed development adjacent to Quiet Waters Park spent most of their four-hour Board of Appeals hearing talking about trees—specifically those in the southwest corner of the 39-acre property adjacent to the county-owned park.
Annapolis' Planning Commission approved a site plan for the Reserve at Quiet Waters, which includes 160 residential units, in September 2011. It did so after hours of heated debate, and only after it placed a near record 48 conditions on the project.
The developers, QW Properties and Chesapeake Realty Partners, testified to the Board of Appeals that they have agreed to potential compromises on all but one of those conditions.
The planning commission placed a requirement on the project that a 100-foot buffer be created on the southwest corner of the property that is adjacent to Quiet Waters Park. The latest plans submitted by the developer shows only a 32-foot buffer.
Chief of Current Planning Tom Smith asked the city of Annapolis' Board of Appeals to keep the 100-foot buffer condition in order to maintain native soils and encourage new growth. This section of the property is designated as a priority one forest.
Jerome Feldman, an attorney representing Chesapeake Realty Partners, argued that his experts believed the buffer amount was arbitrary and unnecessary.
"First and foremost priority one does not mean it cannot be developed," Feldman said. "I think one of the things that appears to be misunderstood is that giving it a defined term does not mean that it's an untouchable object ... It just means it has some sort of conditions and it must meet certain criteria."
Feldman also called Mike Klebasko, who runs an environmental consulting firm called Klebasko Environmental, to testify that he saw no reason for a 100-foot buffer.
In the spirit of compromise, the developers offered to accept the buffer with one expectation: that they be allowed to grade part of the buffer during construction.
"We lose two lots either way. I believe that this is in the spirit of making good compromise," Chesapeake Realty Partners President John Mayers said. "It’s just a different way to get that other lot. To grade into the buffer on a temporary basis."
The reason is that there are three proposed homes that would likely be eliminated if a firm 100-foot boundary is implemented. If Mayers' construction crew could grade approximately five to 35 feet into a portion of that boundary, he said he could stabilize the soil enough to save one of the homes.
Mayers promised that the company would replant the area after construction finished. He also said a retaining wall might be another option, but Mayers wasn't sure it would be enough to allow him to build a house.
City Planning and Zoning Director Jon Arason said he would need a specific plan that included drawings for how far and wide into the buffer Chesapeake would want to grade. He also wanted to know how the company would replant the site.
"We have agreed with all the conditions as modified except for this one," Arason said. "Our original language is what we want. We were looking for 100-foot buffer."
For "Annapolis neck" resident Annastasia Hopkinson, grading into the buffer isn't acceptable.
"It possibly took a couple of centuries to create that forest and you think replanting a few trees will recreate that," Hopkinson asked. "They want to significantly plow under a portion of the forest."
Community leader Ray Sullivan added, "you do not save a forest with a bulldozer."