News & Updates
October 27, 2014
A guest post by Courtney Malengo, Director of Communications, National Lutheran Communities & Services:
The Village at Crystal Spring, sponsored by National Lutheran Communities & Services (NLCS), is the proposed continuing care retirement community located within Crystal Spring Annapolis.
Meeting the changing needs of seniors is the story NLCS started writing in 1890, and continues to write each day. What was The National Lutheran Home in Washington, D.C., is now a family of retirement communities and services located throughout Maryland and Virginia.
As a faith-based, not-for-profit ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) serving people of all beliefs, our desire to care for seniors comes from a deeply-rooted mission that we have championed for 124 years.
Innovation in the delivery of services and our continued commitment to benevolent care programs (which totaled more than $6.8 million in 2013) is quickly becoming the National Lutheran hallmark. That means that we offset the cost of care for approximately 52% of residents. We are grateful that we have never asked any resident to leave because of financial hardship and plan to continue that tradition for another 124 years. It is these same values and services we hope to share with the seniors of Annapolis.
We look forward to becoming part of the Annapolis community and working together to serve seniors at The Village at Crystal Spring and throughout the Annapolis area.
In the coming weeks we will feature more postings about NLCS and the various retirement communities and services they offer. In the interim, to learn more about NLCS, visit www.nationallutheran.org.
October 9, 2014
From yesterday's edition of The Capital:
Magazine picks Annapolis as top retirement destination
Where to Retire magazine has selected Annapolis as a top retirement destination.
Editor Annette Fuller said Annapolis possesses qualities important to today's retirees: "Home to the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis is a historic charmer that's only minutes from Washington, D.C. Stand-up paddleboarding, canoeing and kayaking are popular ways to enjoy the Severn River, while sleek yachts and other sailing vessels are moored at the City Dock marina.
"The walkable downtown, complete with redbrick streets and 18th-century buildings, makes it easy to enjoy shopping, dining and other activities without having to move your car," Fuller said.
The city is profiled in the November-December issue of the magazine, available nationwide on Oct. 14. 2014.
Each year, 700,000 Americans relocate to new towns to retire.
Generally, relocating retirees are healthier, better educated and more affluent than those who choose to not relocate. Nationally, two dozen states and hundreds of towns seek to attract retirees as a source of economic development.
September 11, 2014
Starting in 1996 and following in a series of acquisitions, Janet Richardson-Pearson acquired the 180 acres of property referred to as the “Katherine Property” in the City of Annapolis Comprehensive Plan. She stepped in to prevent an approved subdivision known as “Steeplegate” which would have been a traditional subdivision of 675 single and multi-family homes covering all of the property without concern for the environment. The Steeplegate plan is shown below:
Janet’s plan was to build her home on an 11 acre waterfront portion of the property, establish the Chesapeake Dressage Center to house her equestrian activities and to create a vibrant senior living environment of the type she could not find for her parents when it was needed. In the process, she vowed to preserve approximately 75 acres of open space covering the area where the Chesapeake Dressage Center is located and to see that the senior living focused community was carried out in an environmentally respectful and architecturally superior way. The plans that have been proposed reflect her goals including preservation of an additional 50+ acres of forest and open space beyond her initial pledge of 75 acres.
The proposed mixed-use community will be anchored by a Continuing Care Retirement Community to be owned and sponsored by National Lutheran Communities & Services, Inc.
In 2009, the “Katherine Property” was specifically designated in the City of Annapolis Comprehensive Plan as an “Opportunity Area” for a mixed-use development that respects the property’s natural resources. Now that plans have been put forth by Crystal Spring Development LLC for the CCRC-anchored mixed-use project, a number of vocal no-growth opponents have attacked the 2005 City of Annapolis annexation of the property and have continued to make incorrect statements.
1. The annexation required the Chesapeake Dressage Center property be committed to an open space conservation easement upon annexation.
Not Correct! The annexation clearly states that “a conservation easement of approximately seventy-five (75) acres in the general vicinity of the equestrian center shall be placed upon the property after a final development plan has been approved for the overall property.”
2. The annexation required that the Katherine Property should have already provided water access to the public.
Not Correct! The annexation does not require public access to Crab Creek. It only requires that “Any development of the property that includes subdivision of parcel 246 (the Richardson-Pearson home site) shall explore the possibility of providing public access to the water (motorized / non-motorized) subject to the review and approval of the Department of Recreation and Parks.” There are no plans to sub-divide parcel 246.
3. The annexation allowed only the future development of “farmettes” on the portion of the southern portion of the property.
Not Correct! In fact, the annexation only established that the property would be classified to have R3 and R1-A zones and that no specific uses were either designated or prohibited except as permitted in those zones. In fact, the fiscal analysis for the Annexation was based on 669 non-age restricted dwellings (134 single family homes and 535 townhomes) and both the Planning Commission Memorandum (signed and accepted by James Urban, Chair) and the Department of Planning and Zoning (Jon Arason) affirmatively state that "no plans for the development of the property have been submitted to the City to date." In addition, the concept of “5-acre farmettes” requires clear cutting of trees for pastures for each residence and the use of property for grazing of livestock is only permitted in the Open-Space Zoning District under the City Code. Grazing of livestock also creates other environmental / waste concerns. Here is a “farmette” concept located on Spa Road:
Crystal Spring Development LLC has relied on the “by–right” land use potential of the Katherine Property as demonstrated in its annexation by the City of Annapolis and thereafter by its designation as an Opportunity Area in the City of Annapolis Comprehensive Plan. It remains the intent of Crystal Spring Development LLC to develop the property compliant with its annexation resolution, its inclusion in the City of Annapolis Comprehensive Plan and the requirements of The Forest Conservation Act.
September 10, 2014
The following is a response to Rick Kissel, vice chair, Annapolis Environmental Commission, regarding a letter published in The Capital today:
Rick, we are surprised to see this statement from you. In March, prior to our latest Forest Conservation Plan submission, you helped us set up a meeting with the Annapolis Environmental Commission for an advanced review of the plan. Then, after the meeting, you expressed real regret when you told us the AEC would not engage in further discussions with us. The message was clear; the AEC was not seeking a collaborative outcome. It also appears you have not read our 7/31/14 blog posting, “Crystal Spring Exceeds Environmental Commission\'s 2012 Goal for Forest Conservation” in which we show how the AEC negotiated goal has been exceeded even though the AEC would not sign the agreement that was reached.
You go on to say the goal posts have not moved. Well, below is the AEC’s sketch plan demand to establish priority forest for preservation presented to us when we began negotiations to establish a common goal in 2012. Now that we have created forest conservation and reforestation plans that exceed the AEC demand, the AEC is now looking to stop development in the rear meadow of the property which was never a concern before. What do you call that? Is the AEC now willing to stand behind its 2012 demands? Or have the goal posts been moved once again?
September 2, 2014
The Eye on Annapolis article ("The IRS and the Crystal Spring Defense Fund," published Aug. 29, 2014) should be of interest and concern to all Annapolitans. We look forward to seeing what an investigation may uncover.
Regardless of what the facts may reveal, we hope that there is no real negative impact to the Severn Riverkeeper and its important environmental mission. However, the Winegrad / Prosten sponsored no-growth agenda should be called out for its attack on private property rights and the IRS rules.
August 28, 2014
The following online comment by "sjobs" was made in response to a recent column in The Capital by Ross Geredien, co-founder of a group that calls itself "Friends of Crystal Spring Farm and Forest" and a named party on an appeal of the City of Annapolis acceptance of the Crystal Spring Forest Stand Delineation.
We could not say it better than sjobs:
"Ross, here's my biggest problem with your organization and the many people who support it: Instead of stating the facts, such as the specific laws, zoning regulations, and environmental rules that would be broken if the development went forward as it is currently planned, you try to paint this picture where something is being taken away from taxpaying citizens that belongs to them.
"Even the name, "Friends of Crystal Springs Farm" is misleading. Do you make it a practice to be friends with someone else's personal property that doesn't belong to you?
"You and anyone else who is against the development try to spin it as if this land is being taken away from the citizens of Annapolis. It's not, plain and simple.
"Absolutely, hold the developer to the letter of the law, but please stop spinning it as if something that once belonged to Annapolitans is being taken away from them."
August 20, 2014
The Capital’s Our Say, “Crystal Spring Stalemate Likely to Continue,” (August 11, 2014) is a sobering commentary on the way the City governs the development process. The recent response to the Forest Conservation Plan submitted by Crystal Spring Development marks the latest in a long line of instances of what happens when a balanced, environmentally responsive development proposal meets an entrenched, environmental coalition with a no-growth bias.
Over a period of four years, a total of eight Forest Stand Delineation and two Forest Conservation Plan filings have seen the same outcome. The entrenched environmental no-growth agenda lead by the Annapolis Environmental Commission (AEC) has infected the process. This is the case even though Maria Broadbent, director of the Department of Neighborhoods and Environmental Programs, acknowledged in The Capital that, “[t]here has been movement in the right direction…they have done a lot of work. They have shrunk the footprint of the project, put some parking underground, and abandoned a roadway in favor of using an existing road.”
In fact, changes to the Crystal Spring plans made since the prior Forest Conservation Plan submittal in May 2013 have increased the total amount of forest preservation plus voluntary on-site reforestation ABOVE the level then demanded by the AEC, and above the level required by law. A total of 127 acres out of 190 will now be preserved in forest conservation, open space and critical areas where no future development will be permitted. A 50-acre wildlife corridor through the middle of the property has been created. Voluntary offsite stream restoration has been offered that will result in an improvement of the water quality in Crab Creek and South River. The submission also reflects the relocation of the main CCRC building and health care facility to the Forest Drive retail portion of the project as urged by Mayor Pantelides.
Yet, with requested changes and a year of work with city staff, the official response to this second submission is 38 pages, as compared with a 13-page City response to the initial Forest Conservation Plan filed in May, 2013. It does contain some constructive comment from DNEP focused on areas where improved grading could be accomplished and requests for additional hydrology information should be addressed. Beyond these, however, the extreme positions advanced by the AEC in collaboration with other no-growth advocates dominate the response. And, most of the comments made in the earlier 13-page response (except for a repeat of the Fire Marshal’s comments) are gone and replaced with a new series of requests.
Nevertheless, Crystal Spring Development remains committed to having its plans reviewed at the Planning Commission and its public hearings, and we will continue to post updates on our website – www.crystalspringannapolis.com. The process in Annapolis will not permit Crystal Spring to move to that point until it receives an approved Forest Conservation Plan. We will be working diligently with the City of Annapolis Department of Planning & Zoning, DNEP and others to address the constructive engineering and grading matters identified in the response. However, other comments and requests relating to matters that should be reviewed at later stages of the approval process are well beyond the scope of Forest Conservation Plan review. Crystal Spring will review these premature and exceedingly costly requests with the City of Annapolis to determine which issues may be deferred until later stages in the approval process, in a manner consistent with the way the City applies the Forest Conservation Act to other development projects.
Could it be that the goalposts have been moved (once again) in an attempt to stall the Crystal Spring project and prevent review by the Planning Commission?
In the meantime, the protracted delay caused by the City’s perplexing inconsistency denies the City of Annapolis jobs for its citizens, new tax revenues, innovative services for seniors and the opportunity to have a new and expanded Wellness House of Annapolis, all which will benefit the community.
August 12, 2014
Crystal Spring Development's updated Forest Conservation Plan includes a revised site plan that has eliminated a portion of the previously proposed retail square footage and eliminated residential apartments over a portion of the retail development.
As a result of this site plan scope reductions, the anticipated number of full-time equivalent employees budgeted for the various operating components of the project has been reduced. The chart below represents the current budget which is a reduction from 1,107.
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Inn & Spa
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Property / maintenance
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Service related & other
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In addition to benefits to the local economy from the more than $30 million in wages generated at Crystal Spring, the CCRC will enable 362 (mostly Annapolis area) retired individuals and couples to remain in Annapolis as vital, contributing members of the community whose disposable income will benefit the City.
Also, more than $900,000 annual NET REVENUE -- after deductions for the costs of all related municipal services -- will be available to the City of Annapolis to avoid residential tax increases. On a County level, the NET REVENUE will exceed $1 million per year.
August 5, 2014
The recent public comment letter from the Annapolis Environmental Commission (the “AEC”) to Maria Broadbent illustrates the truly biased and unreasonable position of the AEC regarding the proposed development at Crystal Spring. Instead of providing constructive comments on the Forest Conservation Plan (the “FCP”) recently submitted by Crystal Spring, the AEC has issued a radical statement steeped in misinformation and confused, false characterizations. While the AEC’s lack of objectivity comes as no surprise, it should be concerning to all citizens of Annapolis who expect their government process, including the city commissions, to carry out their duties in a fair, unbiased manner.
In light of recent publicity, it should be made clear that the AEC does not have any authority to approve or disapprove FCPs, site plans, or any other plans submitted by Crystal Spring. The AEC’s role, as provided by the City Code, is limited to providing non-binding recommendations to DNEP.
If the AEC worked as a responsible, objective government commission, its comments could have been useful in promoting a constructive dialogue about environmental issues associated with the project. Unfortunately, the AEC has a history of not doing so and functions instead as a politically-biased group overtly aligned with no-growth advocates absolutely opposed to Crystal Spring. In late 2012 after months of discussions, an agreement between AEC and Crystal Spring was reached regarding environmental standards for the project, but AEC never signed the agreement after consultation with other environmental groups and again, in March 2014, Crystal Spring voluntarily afforded AEC a preview of the key points of its new filing in another attempt at coordination only to be refused the opportunity for follow up discussions.
Given the membership and history of the AEC, this behavior and the radical comments in the AEC’s letter to Maria Broadbent come as no surprise. The AEC and/or individual members of the AEC have:
- attended and spoken at fundraising rallies to support litigation against Crystal Spring
- aligned themselves with activist groups that have already litigated against Crystal Spring and jointly appeared with those groups on Annapolis cable television, voicing opposition to the project
- run for public office in Annapolis based on a platform of Crystal Spring opposition.
- been organizing members of The Green Party, a self-proclaimed anti-development organization with a stated agenda of stopping the proposed Crystal Spring development.
Additionally, the AEC explicitly stated its opposition to the Crystal Spring project in its self-published newsletter in 2011, before Crystal Spring had even submitted any plans for the proposed development. The AEC newsletter has also indicated the AEC’s alliance with Crystal Spring opponents and a link to the website of a no-growth advocacy group which has subsequently appealed Crystal Spring plans in court. Such actions by the AEC and its members call into question the AEC’s motives and its credibility as an objective source of recommendations for the City. One hardly expects fair, unbiased review from a group with such a history and the AEC persists in its inappropriate political involvement today.
The comments in the AEC’s recent letter are based on misinformation and false characterizations. As just a few examples, the AEC has misstated the clear requirements of the law with regard to variances and attempted to characterize the smart growth qualities of Crystal Spring as “specious” and not worth “any consideration.” The AEC letter also attempts to undermine the project’s forest conservation performance and water quality improvements, conveniently failing to mention the actual requirements of State and City law. Overall, the AEC letter attempts to characterize the project as a violation of the very growth policies and environmental considerations which support approval of the recently submitted plans.
In reality, the Crystal Spring proposal is planned on private property established as one of four opportunity areas for development in the City of Annapolis Comprehensive Plan, and the proposed uses for the project are permitted without any zoning variances. Where the AEC letter actually seems to argue for single use development, Crystal Spring incorporates a mix of uses, as directed by the first tenet of the smart growth principles embraced by the U.S. EPA, the State of Maryland, the Smart Growth Network and its many constituent organizations. In accordance with other Smart Growth principles, the proposed project:
- takes advantage of compact building design;
- creates a range of housing choices
- creates a walkable neighborhood
- fosters a distinct, attractive community with a sense of place
- preserves open spaces, natural beauty and critical environmental resources
- directs development within the existing Annapolis community
- provides for a variety of transportation choices.
Furthermore, the developer and existing land owner have constrained total building and hardscape footprints to less than 35 acres out of a total 190 acres; and will place more than 125 acres in forest conservation and open space easements. Our proposed forest conservation performance exceeds the state and city standards (by 66% and 25% respectively) to be exempt from any reforestation requirements. We will also undertake voluntary stream restoration projects that will actually improve water quality in Crab Creek and other initiatives which have earned Crystal Spring the endorsement of the South River Federation.
The AEC’s letter ignores these facts and mischaracterizes a project which is in direct furtherance of the policies meant to guide development in Annapolis. The fact that the AEC continues to function as a blatantly biased commission comprised of activist members should be of concern to citizens who expect objective responsible governance. In the past, Crystal Spring has requested review of the AEC’s practices by the Mayor, City Council and City Attorney. We again submit that request and repeat our concern that the activities of the AEC and its members are inappropriate to its role as defined in the City Code.
To all citizens interested in the proposed development at Crystal Spring, we invite you to review the publicly available plans for yourselves and form your own opinions. We believe our proposed plans do not only meet the requirements of State and City law but exceed those requirements. We are confident that independent, free-thinking citizens will see past the biased positions of the AEC. We will continue to seek approval of a project that is in harmony with the laws and policies governing development in the City of Annapolis and we embrace all reasonable discussion of our proposals.
August 4, 2014
Crystal Spring recently submitted a revised Forest Conservation Plan that significantly reduced the size of the project. As the City of Annapolis reviews the project, it is important that citizens and Annapolis government officials are reminded of the positive economic and fiscal benefits that the Crystal Spring project will produce for the City and its residents.
On June 13th, Alderman Ross Arnett circulated a budget memo to “Ward 8 Residents and Friends.” This memo makes budget deficit projections (if no revenue inflation, other new fee income or economic development benefits are generated) that would grow tremendously through the year 2025 to a cumulative $30,974,250 deficit. This would require tax mill rate increases of about 500%, 340 FTE city staff cuts – or some combination thereof to close this gap.
Obviously, this is a worst case scenario. However, it is not reasonable to assume that this gap could be covered by basic inflation alone. If the goal is to avoid real estate tax mill rate increases, the City will be faced with additional, ongoing service/staff reductions to remain fiscally sound ---- unless it can generate additional revenues through economic development.
Crystal Spring will be required to pay in excess of $5,000,000 in various one-time fees related to sewer, water and permitting fees plus it will generate a RECURRING, ANNUAL NET TAX REVENUE benefit to the City of Annapolis in excess of $900,000. Part of this benefit includes the payment to be made by The Village at Crystal Spring (the continuing care retirement community) through a Payment In-Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreement with the City of Annapolis.
If these economic development benefits were included in the analysis prepared by Alderman Arnett, Crystal Spring would contribute $14,000,000 (excludes inflation) toward closing the budget gap over this 10 year period. Without contributions from any other source, Crystal Spring could cover 45% of the 10-year, and ongoing budget shortfall of the City.
July 31, 2014
During the period July through December 2012, Crystal Spring and the Annapolis Environmental Commission (AEC) had a series of meetings with the common goal of establishing an environmental standard that the AEC and Crystal Spring could mutually endorse. These were good faith discussions that culminated in a December 11, 2012 letter from Crystal Spring to the AEC (see the link to the letter, below) setting forth a negotiated understanding to be formally executed between the parties.
This agreement called for (1.) the combination of forest preservation and voluntary on-site afforestation of 43.75 acres (representing 55% of 79.55 acres); (2.) establishment of buffers to the MDE-identified wooded vernal pool; and, (3.) offsite afforestation of 36 acres of property to be identified. Unfortunately, just at this time the Sierra Club and Gerald Winegrad began a push to interpret the State Forest Conservation Act as a way to prevent development of the Crystal Spring project and, as a result, the Environmental Commission backed away and never executed the agreement.
However, since that time and on numerous occasions the Sierra Club, the AEC and Gerald Winegrad have referred to the attached letter as a “promise” Crystal Spring has made and not fulfilled. The fact is that the attached letter is not an agreement AND (in spite of that fact) Crystal Spring has exceeded the standards referenced in the letter as they relate to the Forest Conservation Act described below.
The June 25, 2014 submission of the Forest Conservation Plan and associated Forest Conservation Worksheet (see the link, below) reveal that a total of 44.84 acres of forest conservation and voluntary on-site afforestation is being provided. This exceeds the goal of the AEC by a little more than 1 acre. In addition, the setback from the MDE vernal pool exceeds 125 feet.
The calculations also demonstrate that Crystal Spring exceeds the state forest conservation threshold by 66% (and the higher City of Annapolis threshold by 25%) so that no reforestation is required of Crystal Spring. This means that any on-site or offsite afforestation provided by Crystal Spring would be voluntary.
Dec. 11, 2012 letter to Diane Butler
Forest Conservation Worksheet
July 29, 2014
In an attempt to influence the City of Annapolis's review of the Crystal Spring Forest Conservation Plan, the group known as "Friends of Crystal Spring Forest" has circulated a petition seeking signatures to “Just Say No” to Crystal Spring. Their cover memo to the petition signing request is yet another blatant example of manipulating the residents of Annapolis to express opposition to Crystal Spring based on hyped misrepresentations and half-truths. They are using these misrepresentations to serve their no-growth agenda. In its short 1/3 page request, the group has made six (6) statements that are misrepresentations geared to distort facts. Listed below, in the order they appear in the request, are the facts:
1. They say the project “will impact as much as 1.7 acres of non-tidal wetlands.” This is not true.
The fact is Crystal Spring has provided more than a 125-foot setback from all non-tidal wetlands and has presented engineering studies that demonstrate the hydrology of these pocket wetlands will not be disturbed. This group has not provided any evidence of their claim. This is reckless and irresponsible.
2. They say the project’s Forest Stand Delineation is “missing more than half of all the wetlands present.” This is not true.
The fact is the Crystal Spring Forest Stand Delineation properly identifies all existing wetlands located on the property as verified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which is the body that has the jurisdiction over such identifications.
Crystal Spring has submitted the jurisdictional determination letter from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that demonstrates its finding. Where is their evidence backing this claim? Again, this factless claim has no merit.
3. They say that the “Crystal Spring project (emphasis added) would still be nearly three (3) times the size of Annapolis Towne Centre.” This is not only untrue – but insultingly misleading.
The fact is this group and others have been making this statement for more than 2 years and so much so that last year (based on the then proposed project scope which has since been reduced) Crystal Spring developed a comparison chart shown below. The misleading point is that the Crystal Spring total acreage is 3 times that of Annapolis Towne Centre with less than 2/3 its development. This means the Crystal Spring proposal is 1/5 as densely developed as Towne Centre and includes more than 50 acres of undisturbed property within its development compared to Towne Centre’s 14 story height and nearly 100% coverage. To state that the project (and not the acreage) is 3 times as large is purposefully misleading.
Click on this link to view the attached comparison plan.
And below are some actual comparison figures:
Towne Centre Square Footage
Crystal Spring Square Footage
4. They say the project will “create more pollution for the South River and the Chesapeake Bay.” This is untrue and the claim is unsubstantiated.
The facts are that (1.) current storm water management regulations require that all storm water be managed on site to avoid impacts on waterways (2.) no development is proposed in critical areas within 1,000 feet of Crab Creek and (3.) under an agreement with the South River Federation Crystal Spring will be making voluntary offsite steam restoration to remove polluting nutrients that NOW flow across the Annapolis Middle School property from over 65 acres of unregulated land and into Crab Creek. Removal of nutrients and sediment from this source will improve the water quality of Crab Creek and the South River. This substantial voluntary environmental contribution of Crystal Spring and other initiatives has earned Crystal Spring the endorsement of the South River Federation. Read the 2013 letter regarding the Crystal Spring/South River Federation initiatives.
5. They say with regard to impacts of Crystal Spring, “in addition to increased traffic.” This is a misleading half-truth.
The facts are there will be traffic generated by the Crystal Spring project that is much less than other potential development of the property because the dominant part of the development is the Continuing Care Retirement Community which does not generate rush hour traffic and overall produces much less traffic that almost any other type of development. The employee traffic related to retail and the CCRC are also not rush hour traffic and the vast majority of all employee traffic will be going in the opposite direction as the Annapolis Neck traffic. In addition, a new connector road is proposed on the site that will be part of a connection between Spa Road and Bywater such that traffic can avoid Forest Drive between these points.
Finally, and most importantly, their statement does not mention that Crystal Spring will be required to make significant improvements to Forest Drive and the Spa Road intersection which will more than offset the impact of traffic generated by the project.
6. They say that Crystal Spring will create “school overcrowding.” Again, this statement is misleading.
The truth is that Crystal Spring is not the potential cause of overcrowding as the Hillsmere School is currently at or over capacity. Crystal Spring is potentially part of the solution by being required to pay nearly $800,000 in school impact fees, which should be used for the benefit of impacted schools. To put this in perspective, according to formulas used by Anne Arundel County, only 10 elementary school age children would be generated by Crystal Spring. In addition, to avoid the entire possibility of impacting Hillsmere Elementary School, Crystal Spring, since it anticipates generating so few elementary school age children, would agree to require its students to attend one of two other elementary schools that are not at capacity and are actually located closer to Crystal Spring. _______________________________________________________
Friends of Crystal Spring Forest are No-Growth Advocates who have pushed to deny land-owner rights. Their spokesman appeared on a City of Annapolis cable television show and stated with regard to Crystal Spring, “I would not even endorse building a bird house on the property.” Crystal Spring is a complex project and the Forest Conservation Act, coupled with Land Use Regulations, is a formidably complex set of documents. This group's perspectives are filled with assumptions and statements that at best do not have any documentary evidence and at worst are purposefully misleading to serve their no-growth agenda. Most times their statements are coupled with a phrase such as “Can You Imagine?” how bad this or that will be. This is a slick technique which insults the reader’s ability to judge for themselves.
July 28, 2014
In a letter to the editor published in The Capital (July 25), writers Patrick and Elise Fleeharty demonstrate yet another example of an attack on Crystal Spring that is based on misrepresentations and factual errors either initiated by the Fleehartys or repeated from the talking points being promoted by the no-growth activists. In this letter the writers say:
1. Crystal Spring is claiming that “enforcement of the act (Forest Conservation Act)…would create an unwarranted hardship…by preventing development on virtually all of the property” and “could be construed as an illegal taking of private property rights” NOT TRUE -- this carefully excerpted reference to Crystal Spring’s statement applies to an incorrect No-Growth interpretation of the act that would be used to stop development.
The fact is Crystal Spring embraces the correct application of the Forest Conservation Act to the Katherine Property as well as the City of Annapolis Comprehensive Plan which has designated the property as an Opportunity Zone for development. Crystal Spring has demonstrated its compliance with the Forest Conservation Act by (1.) conservation of 66% more forest than the “breakeven threshold” established by the state of Maryland and 25% higher than the more stringent City of Annapolis requirement (2.) creating a 50 acre wildlife corridor through the middle of its proposed development, and (3.) avoiding all of the sensitive environmental areas such as wetlands, steep slopes and critical habitats. What Crystal Spring has stated would be a hardship and a potential taking of private property rights would be application of the No-Growth interpretation of the Forest Conservation Act as a tool to further prohibit development than proposed by Crystal Spring and extend its jurisdiction beyond forested areas to include development in existing meadow areas.
2. The current plan “includes 542 housing units, a 220 square foot shopping center, a 69,000 square foot, four story hotel and spa...” NOT TRUE
The facts are that the current Crystal Spring plan calls for 118 non-age restricted townhouses that are traditional housing units. There are 362 independent living accommodations as part of the Continuing Care Retirement Community that is part of a “Care for the Elderly” category and not “housing units.” These accommodations place only a portion of the demands for public services (sewer, water and traffic) than traditional housing and are classified differently for this and other reasons. Even if erroneously lumped with townhouses, the total would be 480 and not 542. In addition, the total “shopping center” square footage is 141,000 and not 220,000 as the writers claim.
3. The current proposed plan is far more extensive and environmentally damaging that the original plan proposed in 2005. NOT TRUE
The fact is the only previously proposed plan for this property was the approved Steeplegate project which was approved prior to land purchase by Janet Richardson-Pearson. It called for 675 homes with no open space preserved or environmental feature protection and was the driving force behind Janet’s desire to protect the property. When she acquired this property, she had the right to proceed with this plan. The current circumstances are that with the City of Annapolis annexation of her 180 acres and its proposed Crystal Spring development, a total of approximately 127 acres would remain untouched and be protected from further development instead of there being a traditional sub-division covering the entire site.
For comparison, click on the first link below to see the previously approved Steeplegate site plan; and then click on the second link to view the current Crystal Spring plan.
Approved Steeplegate Site Plan
Current Crystal Spring Plan
July 16, 2014
The updated Preliminary Forest Conservation Plan was developed following the initial submittal on May 24, 2013 and responded to DNEP’s June 28, 2013 letter and the comments and instruction therein. Some of DNEP’s remarks were of a general nature; others took the form of specific directives. A central message of DNEP’s letter, however, was the request that Crystal Spring Development (CSD) create a consolidated environmental mapping to show all environmental features on a single sheet and then to reconsider the ability to adjust the proposed development in light of the environmental mapping. CSD’s team, headed by Annapolis Landscape Architects, developed the consolidated environmental mapping based upon input provided by DNEP, DPZ, and others. The mapping then functioned as a new baseline for project planning. The mapping, includes information on:
- Forest Stands
- Specimen Trees
- Steep slopes, wetlands and other natural resources per Natural Resources Article, § 5-1607 (c)
- Arborist-identified individual tree stands with best survivability
Once this mapping was completed, CSD established a priority ranking of environmental resources to be retained. The ranking order established was: 1. Intermittent Drainage Way 2. MDE-designated “vernal pool” 3. Non-tidal wetlands 4. Steep Slopes 5. Wildlife Corridor 6. Tree stands that connect Arborist-identified tree stands
Using the consolidated environmental mapping as a guide toward potential revisions, CSD made several significant plan modifications that reflect the priority ranking established above.
In addition, DNEP requested that CSD specifically investigate alternatives that would relocate the main CCRC building from its prior location to an area of the property on the Forest Drive side of the intermittent drainage way with the aim of creating a larger wildlife corridor through the middle section of the site. This relocation was accomplished, resulting in a larger wildlife corridor which now encompasses approximately 50 acres, and removing all proposed development from potential impacts to identified environmental features in that region of the property. See the Consolidated Environmental Mapping included herewith.
Overall site plan improvements have been accomplished by instituting the following major plan modifications as reflected in this revised Preliminary Forest Conservation Plan:
- The main CCRC building and the health care facility, a total of approximately 400,000 square-feet of development, have been relocated from their previous location to a portion of the retail/commercial mixed-use development section on the Forest Drive side of the intermittent drainage way. This area previously contained retail development, with age-restricted housing above retail, and also the Inn & Spa, all of which were supported by on-grade parking. The modified plan contains only the main CCRC building, health care and CCRC wellness facilities in this area with under-building parking for its residents and only limited staff and visitor on-grade parking for staff and visitors near the building entrances.
- As a result of the relocation of the main CCRC building and related facilities, the previously planned access road to the main CCRC building, which included a vehicle bridge over the intermittent drainage way, has been eliminated. The existing Crystal Spring Farm Road, which will be improved, is now proposed as the main access road to the rear of the property.
- The portions of the Continuing Care Retirement Community to be developed beyond the main CCRC building and its health care facility have been reduced in scope and footprint. One of the three “Maison Court” 20-unit independent living buildings has been eliminated and consolidated into the main CCRC building within the Forest Drive side of the development, and the remaining two (2) “Maison Court” buildings and 24 of the 33 cottage units have all been located in non-forested areas. Only the nine (9) cottage units in Phase 1 of the CCRC development are planned within the forested area of the property on the opposite side of the intermittent drainage way from the main CCRC building. These small independent cottages, with no basements, will be developed in a way that will insure that existing hydrology now sheet feeding pocket wetlands and the intermittent drainage way are maintained.
- A minimum 100-foot setback from Forest Drive has been created which will reduce the visual impact from Forest Drive.
A graphic illustration of the progress that has been achieved throughout the site plan revision process is represented on the image from a previous blog post (scroll to our July 2, 2014 post, “Crystal Spring Project, Project Statistics – Comparison of Building Footprint & Hardscape Areas”). The three plans depict snapshots of the multi-year planning process at critical points, and the evolution of the project. The first layout, from April 2011, shows the plan as proposed to and reviewed by the City’s Planning Commission during workshop sessions. The second layout, from May 2013, shows the plan submitted to DNEP as part of the initial Preliminary Forest Conservation Plan submittal. The third layout shows the current revised Preliminary Forest Conservation Plan.
See the PDF links, below, to view the Statistical Comparison Chart and the Consolidated Environmental Mapping.
View Statistical Comparison Chart
View Consolidated Environmental Mapping
July 10, 2014