City Dock Park Clears Hurdle, Residents Still Concerned About Flood Plans
ANNAPOLIS, MD - The proposed City Dock Park is one step closer to reality.
The Annapolis Planning Commission unanimously approved the site plan Thursday night, less than a month after a major flood damaged several city businesses. There are still a few more permitting hurdles to clear, but this first chunk of the city’s floodproofing plan is chugging along.
The roughly $60 million project would spend two years replacing the City Dock parking lot with an elevated park and a flood mitigation system.
The effort is slated to protect 70% of the downtown shoreline from 8 feet of flooding. The city hopes to cover the remaining coast in future projects that are still years away.
Designers said this would defend the historic district from sea level rise and worsening storm surges until 2060. The city would then need to reassess its protective measures. The United Nations projects Annapolis sea levels to rise at least a foot by the 2050s and at least 2 feet by 2100.
The city still needs $10 million to $20 million for the park, Mayor Gavin Buckley (D) estimated. He hopes to fill this gap with a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Residents Cautiously Optimistic
City residents are eager to see a plan in motion, but many worry about the properties not covered in this phase.
Annapolitans appreciate the fortifications for the Dock Street half of Ego Alley. Locals still question if it’s worth the price tag if the private properties on the Compromise Street side don’t protect themselves. They fear this would leave an open hole and make downtown vulnerable again.
Annapolis resident John Richards was one of 12 audience members. He thinks “it’s a shame that the planning commission didn’t defer the decision until they had the plans for Part 2 and Part 3.”
“The flooding will not stop if the wall ends at Donner Park,” Richards told Patch after the meeting. “It’s like a boat with half a hull.”
City resident Sharon Kennedy shared that sentiment. She was frustrated that plans weren’t finalized for how City Dock Park would tie into the eventual U.S. Naval Academy sea wall. This connection is slated for a future phase when the Navy’s plans are more clear.
The Annapolis Harbormaster’s office would also be demolished to make way for the park. The harbormaster would eventually move into a new maritime welcome center to be built in a later phase. This center would neighbor the historic Burtis House, which will be raised by several feet, on Prince George Street.
Kennedy is upset that the city hasn’t yet found an interim home for the harbormaster during construction.
“There is nothing about this application that is in final form,” Kennedy said during her testimony. “They seem to have an attitude … of we’ll get back to you on that. We’ll get to it eventually.”
Planners Address Concerns
Designers stressed that the plan was never to flood proof all of downtown’s 2,100 feet of shoreline in a single swoop.
They said that would’ve been too costly and taken years to develop because private properties line the remaining portion. The city will work with those property owners to suggest plans, but tax dollars will not fund those private projects.
Planners said the first phase was only ever supposed to address the first 1,500 feet of coast, which is all public property. The remaining 600 feet on private property would follow in Phases 2 and 3 if pushed across the finish line. These phases were not included in Thursday’s vote, so they would need separate approval.
Designers said the Phase 1 site plan is fully developed and would protect the entire area it was tasked with.
“It’s not a concept plan,” Project Manager Eileen Fogarty said in her testimony. “It’s a detailed site plan for the entire City Dock Park and all of the resiliency that affects the City Dock Park. The only thing you’re missing are other phases in the future. This can be done in it’s entirety. We’re not missing any detail for the site plan.”
Patch asked Fogarty if fortifying only half of Ego Alley would push floodwater to the other side and exacerbate damage on Compromise Street.
Fogarty said it would not worsen damage on the unprotected portion because that side has a slightly higher elevation as is. She said the city would deploy temporary flood barriers as needed until a permanent solution is in place on Compromise Street.
City Dock Park would feature a raised grassy area and a performance stage. The green space and the trees lining the waterfront promenade would act as a natural sponge for floodwaters.
Flip gates and pop-up barrier walls would create a tighter seal. These would automatically activate thanks to their buoyancy in the water.
The Annapolis Public Works Department would have to install some manual barriers before extreme tides, but these are a small share of the fortifications. Pumphouses would also push the water away.
The 5.1-foot storm surge on Jan. 9 and 10 was the city’s third-worst flood on record. Fogarty said the 8 feet of protection at City Dock Park would have prevented the flooding on Dock Street, which forced several businesses to temporarily close for repairs.
The mayor declared a state of emergency last month to unlock relief grants worth up to $50,000 each for those victims. Buckley has since doubled down on how timely City Dock Park is.
“As the most recent flooding has indicated, there's an urgency to getting the work done,” Buckley’s spokesperson Mitchelle Stephenson told Patch on Friday. “This will take some time to get everything built up. This is the largest infrastructure project in the city’s history.”
Utility and powerline work are scheduled to begin this spring. A year of intense construction will start this fall.
The park is scheduled to open in 2025. The finishing floodproofing touches would continue until 2026. The work is not scheduled to interrupt the spring or fall boat shows at City Dock.
Phase 1 construction would start where Dock Street meets the water and wrap along Ego Alley. This portion would end at the current Donner parking lot, which would also be converted into a park.
Phase 2 plans would protect 110 Compromise Street, which houses The Choptank restaurant, to the Annapolis Waterfront Hotel.
Phase 3 would defend the hotel to the Spa Creek bridge.
The final phases would connect City Dock Park to the future Naval Academy seawall, construct the maritime welcome center and lift the Burtis House.
The planning commissioners are excited about the park, but they feel uneasy that the remaining phases are beyond their purview with this application.
“That’s the thing that’s giving me heartburn,” Commissioner Diane Butler said during the meeting.
Vice Chair Robert Waldman agrees but remains confident in the construction team from the Annapolis Mobility and Resilience Partners consortium.
“There’s a lot of faith that’s being put on the table here,” Waldman said at the meeting. “There’s a lot of trust that this thing gets done right because if it doesn’t, we’re all going to look like fools.”
The park still needs approval from the Historic Preservation Commission, the mayor’s office said. It also still needs permits for electrical, plumbing and stormwater work.
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