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Key School Development Plans Met with Concern

Plans to purchase and convert the Annapolis Golf Club into sports fields for the Key School were met with skepticism and anger at a public meeting on Thursday night.

Residents hammered Key School representatives about the proposed development of the Annapolis Golf Club at a public meeting at Georgetown East Elementary on Thursday night.

The school wants to transform the nine-hole golf course, and create two multi-purpose athletic fields, nine tennis courts, a track with turf field, baseball diamond, maintenance buildings, locker rooms and a parking lot that can hold 103 cars.

"I’m against the proposal completely ... To me in a way it denigrates the community," Susan Kames said. "The community is very quiet, and it's almost like it’s a little island there in this huge development on the Annapolis Neck."

The school announced it had finalized a deal to purchase the 67.6 acre property in November 2011, and a few weeks later a group called Preserve Annapolis Roads sued—arguing the sports fields and buildings would violate restrictive covenants on the property.

Development is bound by a legal document, signed by the previous golf course owners and members of the surrounding community. It spells out a limited number of uses for the property. 

Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Paul Goetzke threw the lawsuit back to the plaintiffs in July, saying the residents must build a case for why the proposed development violates the covenants rather than seeking a declaratory judgment.

"Our view is that other recreational uses besides the golf course are allowed, and our view is that these fit within the covenants," said Chuck Anthony, the chair of Key’s Buildings and Grounds Committee.

Several audience members disagreed and kept pressing the school's representatives on whether sports activities and field trips were educational uses of the property and thus outside the bounds of the covenants.

It's a point that a Circuit Court judge will likely decide when the group refiles its suit in October.

Another sticking point was transparency. The school has been meeting for months with the Annapolis Roads community board. The two groups have developed a list of 18 conditions they are working on in order to reach a compromise.

Several residents said they had been denied permission to see the list or know what was being negotiated.

"I’m not getting in the middle of your board and your community," said Niels Holch, Board of Trustees President for Key School. "That’s a bad place to be."

Holch ultimately read the 18 listed items, but he declined to share the physical document with residents. 

"This is more transparent than anything I’ve heard from my own board," Kames said. "People don’t know what’s going on. The board has not shared enough information."

Residents also raised several questions about lighting, amplified sound, annexation into the city of Annapolis and irrigation.

The school said it will not seek to install speakers or lighting outside of the parking lot for at least seven years. To do either requires a special exemption from the County Council because the property is limited in its use by its open space zoning.

Golf course owners George and Linda Graefe filed a petition to be annexed into Annapolis, but Holch promised to withdraw that petition should the school purchase the property.

He also offered the community the right of first refusal. That means the school would have to first offer the property to the Annapolis Roads community before it could try to sell to someone else.

The only point that earned the Key School presenters any applause was when Holch announced the school's pledge not to ever lease the fields out to third parties.

Marcella Yedid, Key’s head of school, also promised that she has no plans to build a satellite campus on the property or to expand enrollment beyond the 700 students the school has now.

The school plans to file its preliminary plan with the county soon, which will mark the beginning of what it views as a long process. Officials don't anticipate opening the park for at least a year and a half.

"The really important thing is for this process to work there needs to be a broad involvement," County Councilman Chris Trumbauer said.

Trumbauer voted against a law that expanded permissions for use of open space zoning to include sports fields in May. The decision opened the door for the school to move ahead with its plans, which were initially rejected by the council in February.

"There’s a lot of things that I can’t do as a legislator, and it's up to the community to negotiate with the Key School," Trumbauer said. "I’m hopeful that that happens."

To view the proposal for the golf course from Key School click here.

What do you think about the Key School's proposal for the golf course?

 

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Karen Essen September 28, 2012 at 07:55 PM
I don't have a stake in this except that like most Annapolitans, unnecesesary development makes me uneasy. From what I've read in The Capital and The Sun: 1) Key School didn't approach Annapolis Roads about this purchase, but instead made a secret deal with the golf course owner 2) Key School could not legally develop this property, until... 3) Key School bribed Councilman Benoit to influence the county council and change any laws Key School is breaking. Of course, Key School will get their way in the end. Anne Arundel County development laws are quite flexible whenever money is concerned. Between this new "campus" and the new gas station complex coming up nearby at the Bay Forest shopping center, we're certainly going to have some interesting traffic jams from now on!

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