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Residents Rally Against Downtown Parking Garage

The proposed garage would be built on top of the Annapolis City Playground.

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 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.

Alderman Richard Israel questioned the need for an additional parking garage, stating that there are about 600 spots not regularly used at the Park Place garage.

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 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.

Janet Norman April 18, 2012 at 01:33 AM
Ask the Mayor/City Council to put the exact plan up on the City website, for all to see and compare. Quit hiding it. Even after the emergency session, Alderman Paone was unaware that there would a significant reduction in the play space for the children of Annapolis Elementary School (with 57% of students qualifying for free and reduced meals). That the "playground" would be moved across Compromise street to where the AES students would no longer have access to it (their principal will not jeopardize them in crossing the road, regardless if the City would). And the basketball court shrunken to half size, then moved across a road (again, made unavailable to AES students). Amazing the words "recess, exercise, mental focus, childhood obesity, health issues" were never used during the 1 hour 20 minute Emergency session of the City Council just on this issue. Demand that your elected representatives conduct this dealing with transparency - put the exact plan up on the website, now! I'd suggest under the "Hot Topics" category on the homepage....
Chris Stelzig April 18, 2012 at 02:08 AM
If you care about this playground, tomorrow is D-Day. The Board of Education hears the city's song and dance at the 10am meeting on Riva Road in the BOE Building. Let's just hope that the BOE remembers they have one focus, one responsibility, and one question to answer ... does this plan help or hurt the school kids and school community? If it hurts (and it does) then vote it down. Any other response is an abdication of responsibility.
John Frenaye April 18, 2012 at 03:43 AM
Chris and Janet--imagine a garage that has a facade that looks like a quaint seaport town from the road. It takes up more space than the original playground. Now, on top of that garage, on a real grass surface, is a larger playground. The children are isolated from the nearby traffic, the playground can (if needed) be locked up after hours. There are thick lucite/plexiglass "walls" to make sure no one falls (or climbs) off the structure and keeps the balls in. This view is now of the harbor from three stories above the roadway and not a direct view across compromise street into the parking lot of the Fleet Reserve. Is that an acceptable compromise? I have not seen the full plans, but this is something that has been done in other areas. Most large cities have playgrounds for schools on the roofs. We can make it green with real grass---look at the Brick Building in Edgewater.
Chris Stelzig April 18, 2012 at 11:43 AM
John ... thank you for suggesting alternatives. Something like that would further the conversation. There are still some concerns that would have to be addressed, such as the archaeology of what lies underneath the current plots, what happens to the kids during emergencies, etc. But I think that your point is good and at least a way to keep talking. However, the Council with R-15-12 has narrowed the debate to this garage/this proposal/this developer/this location/this time. The school board and community are now forced into the position of accepting this sole-source non-competitively bid major contract or rejecting it. Since the Board's sole focus has to be on "what is best for the school community?" the answer is pretty clear. Were there more time we'd be able to have a reasonable conversation about what you suggest. It has been brought up before and was rejected, but that was prior to my getting involved and so I'm a little unclear of the reasons. But again ... thank you for trying to broaden the conversation.
Kari O April 18, 2012 at 11:53 AM
Evidently, this plan or some version of it has been known, at least to some city council members, for a year and a half. It's not clear to me why the plans weren't fully vetted in a public forum long ago, in order to avoid the appearance of an emergency now. Any insight from folks with close involvement on this issue? What was happening 18 months ago? Thanks!
Janet Norman April 18, 2012 at 08:17 PM
Smackdown of City by Board of Ed. today... BoE and Superintendent flatly say City has not delivered on any of the documents the Board has asked for, that there is no trust in what City reps tell them, and that this garage is not in the interest of the children. I'm embarrassed for my City, they should withdraw this ridiculous proposal, not openly threaten the BoE that they'll take their City owned playground and build whatever they would like on it. Finlayson promised all permitting would be smooth and on time (she's their new boss?) even as BoE asked where their long overdue City permits were for the renovation of AnnElem and Phoenix. She omitted that State Historical Permits are not under her or the City's control. Arnett used the Market House as an analogy of how permits are getting done on time, not sure that's the smartest example. When asked if the rest of the City Council supported this garage, Finlayson told them they got the 6 signatures for the Emergency Mtg, and "would have gotten 8 signatures if there had been time." Implying to the BoE those Alderperson's consent to the garage, which was really just legislative courtesy to allow a meeting to take place. Again, that "trust" thing is a sticky wicket.... Time to issue the mea culpas to the children and residents of Annapolis, and move on to actual productive items....
Steve Bookshester April 26, 2012 at 09:57 PM
What reason is there to believe any promises regarding play space given the history of these same developers with the promised but non-existent performing arts center at Park Place?

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