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Visions for Vacancies: Fawcett's Building, City Dock

Co-owner Richard Terhorst wants Annapolis to rezone the old Fawcett Boat Supplies location on Compromise Street from maritime to commercial.

What kind of business would you like to see in this location? Tell me in the comments.

The building at 110 Compromise St. has sat empty for more than two years, but co-owner Richard Terhorst said it's not because he hasn't had offers.

"I've had banks, restaurants and commerical business all inquire about the site," Terhorst said.

The problem is that the location is zoned for maritime use rather than commercial. That limits the kind of business Terhorst and co-owner Greg Kaufman can rent to.

Once Fawcett Boat Supplies closed, the two men asked the city to re-zone the property commercial.

Nearly a year ago, the city's Planning Commission voted unanimously to allow commercial zoning of the property, but that's where the process came to a halt.

"(City council) just told us they are not going to give us a hearing in July, which means we will be waiting until at least September," Terhorst said. "The legal fees some months run $20,000 and we are well over $200,000 at this point."

He estimated that every month the building goes un-rented, he and Kaufman lose a combined total of around $40,000.

"It's really one of the most frustrating and un-American processes that I've ever been involved with," Terhorst said.

Mayor Josh Cohen said he sympathizes with Terhorst and Kaufman's situation, but the building is a key component of the master plan for the renovation of City Dock.

"It's about a vision," Cohen said. "The area is a historic asset, but it's not being used to its full potential."

Cohen commissioned a 25-member City Dock Advisory Committee (CDAC) in 2010 to study the area that inlcudes City Dock, Compromise Street and Market Space.

The group, along with private consultants hired by the city, presented its  first, preliminary ideas about the area at a public meeting Thursday evening.

Alderman Richard Israel (D-Ward 1), whose ward includes the building, said he thinks re-zoning of the property should wait until the CDAC makes a formal recommendation to council this fall.

That concerned Terhorst because "they represent our building as public space and that's misleading."

He also said he's had pushback from Alderman Ross Arnett (D-Ward 2) who, Terhorst said, worries about a domino effect of maritime businesses asking to be re-zoned.

Arnett did not return Patch's request for comment on this story.

Alderman Ian Pfeiffer (D-Ward 7) has a large maritime zone in his district. He said he's concerned about the domino effect because a commercially-zoned property is worth substantially more than one that's zoned maritime.

"My problem with that argument is that they (Kaufman and Terhorst) have been fighting this battle for almost three years," Pfeiffer said.

He thinks the time and cost associated with a re-zoning battle would be a real deterrent. He also said the city code is quite clear about who can qualify.

According to Annapolis code, an owner must prove that the building was incorrectly zoned in the first place or that there has been a substantial change in the neighborhood. 

Pfeiffer said the Fawcett building could qualify given the number of commercial buildings that surround it.

"I think if someone wanted to build a hotel in the middle of the marina in my ward, people would say that's a very different dynamic," Pfeiffer said. "I'm certainly concerned about a domino effect, but I'm not sure I buy it."

Terhorst said the re-zoning of his building as maritime in 1987 was a mistake.

He said the building, which had once been a grocery story and a lumber yard, got roped into the maritime zone with the Yacht Club simply because it was a boat shop when the re-zoning took place.

"We have a documented history of non-maritime use going back over 100 years," Terhorst said.

 

Read more on this issue:

View Proposals for City Dock

Residents Help Decide Future of City Dock

POLL: Should City Dock's Parking Become a Park?

Committee Presents Ideas for City Dock

Mayor Announces City Dock Advisory Committee Members

zmark July 02, 2012 at 07:34 PM
"Terhorst said the re-zoning of his building as maritime in 1987 was a mistake"!!!! He was the guy that got it re-zoned. He purchased the building when he owned Fawcett, and got the building re-zoned to WMI. Now he wants to change it so that he can cash in - does not seem fair. The guy has been offered plenty of suitable tenants for years (to include Fawcett, which tried desperately to stay in the space), but he wants the big payday and wants the zoning changes so that he can get it. Tell the truth, Dick.
MD Resident July 03, 2012 at 05:48 PM
I must admit, I don't know the history as zmark does, but I do know that I sincerely hope something is done about the vacant space soon. I feel like it gives the wrong impression about our downtown area. If too many shops or markets are empty, dirty or appear abandoned, it makes visitors think our town is not healthy, safe and vibrant. I'd like to believe we are all those things.
Julie November 29, 2012 at 03:42 PM
This is actually my FAVORITE spot for a decent Children's Museum. It could be maritime themed and therefore fit the zoning requirement. Anyone with some deep pockets want to partner up on this idea?
sandy bannister July 09, 2013 at 03:33 PM
The Cohen twitch, someone makes an overture and Josh is ready to give it away. The contract purchaser wants the City to give away two lots and they’d agree to open promenade for pedestrians. Really…., how generous of them. he participants then want city to improve the bulkhead, increase building height, alter use and fast stream permitting. The land area they want the citizens of Annapolis to give them is approximately 18,300 sf. They’re shocked citizens would not accept their generous offer. Really? The mayor is going to give away 18,300 sf. of prime waterfront real estate; by what authority? Mr. Cohen just doesn’t have a clue. (He gave away the Market House after losing millions in taxpayer dollars.) Here’s an alternative: swap of city parcel adjacent to Reserve for comparable area of the former Fawcett’s property, keep the zoning, use and building height. No deal? Next.

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