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During Environmental Matters Committee Meeting That Opponents Attempted to Block, City Staff Says Crystal Spring Plan Meets Forest Conservation Requirements

January 17, 2015

 

The following article appeared in The Capital on January 16, highlighting the results of a meeting at City Hall that anti-development activists did not want to take place:

 

"City staff spells out latest Crystal Spring plans; Latest proposal retains more forest acres"

The Capital, Jan. 16, 2015

By Jack Lambert

Crystal Spring meets state technical requirements for retaining forest, according to city staff.

Frank Biba, chief of environmental programs, and Maria Broadbent, director of the Department of Neighborhood and Environmental Programs, testified in front of the City Council's Environmental Matters Committee Thursday. City staff briefed members of the council on changes to the proposed $200 million project at the meeting.

The testimony was not a final ruling on the Forest Conservation Plan, which city staff has twice sent back to developers. The latest Forest Conservation Plan for Crystal Spring was submitted on Dec. 31.

Alderman Ross Arnett, D-Ward 8, asked Broadbent whether the development plans indicated Crystal Spring complied with the state Forest Conservation Act. "Before we completely agree with you on that, Alderman Arnett, we need to take the time allowed to us and give it a thorough review," she said.

The new plans, according to a handout prepared for the committee, include 82.23 acres of existing forest cover in a 105-acre tract. According to the Forest Conservation Act, developers are allowed to clear 48.97 acres of forest, and must maintain at least 33.27 acres, without further mitigation.

Crystal Spring plans call for clearing 43.46 acres of forest and retaining 38.78 acres, Biba told the committee.

"Generally speaking it shows a development proposal that is shrinking," Biba said of the new plans.

Thursday's meeting is the latest chapter in the bitter fight over the proposed Crystal Spring project. Developers submitted earlier versions of a Forest Conservation Plan in 2013 and in June. On both occasions, city staff called for revisions.

Public comments on the latest Forest Conservation Plan are open until Jan. 30. The Department of Neighborhood and Environmental Programs expects a decision by Feb. 13.

City staff will also determine whether the proposal is in conflict with the city's 2009 Comprehensive Plan, Broadbent said.

Developers Marshall Breines and Jim Eagan attended Thursday's hearing, as did local environmentalists. Breines and Eagan, partners in the Connecticut-based firm Affirmative Hillspoint, were originally scheduled to testify in front of the Environmental Matters Committee.

But Forrest Mays, an opponent of Crystal Spring, accused the committee of violating the state Open Meetings Act.

Alderman Jared Littmann, D-Ward 5, the committee chairman, invited Breines and Eagan to the previously scheduled meeting and notified constituents in a weekly email sent out Sunday.

"There's no public here," Mays said. "Maybe there are four people who aren't being paid to be here."

The developers agreed not to testify in order to avoid a possible violation of the Open Meetings Act.

Thursday's testimony revealed little new information about the new Crystal Spring plan, which calls for about 144,000 square feet of retail space, 113 townhomes and 362 homes for seniors.

Afterwords, Breines said committee members "are not dealing with the facts" related to the Forest Conservation Plan. Neither Littmann nor Arnett offered an opinion during the hearing, although Littmann at one point criticized the amount of forest allowed to be cleared.

"That highlights a problem with the act," he said.

 

Statement Regarding Filing of Updated Forest Conservation Plan

January 1, 2015

On December 31, 2014 Crystal Spring filed its updated Forest Conservation Plan (FCP) with the City of Annapolis, which is the second phase of a three-phase approval process for the proposed Continuing Care Retirement Community anchored mixed-use project to be located at the corner of Spa Road and Forest Drive.  The FCP filing follows the filing and acceptance of Crystal Spring’s Forest Stand Delineation and precedes the submission of its Planned Development Application to the Planning Commission for a final determination.  Crystal Spring has been working on its plans with the City of Annapolis for nearly five years and has filed eight Forest Stand Delineations before being accepted and the current FCP is the project’s third submission.

“During the past five years we have been held to, but met or exceeded, the most stringent environmental standards ever demanded for a project in the City of Annapolis,” said Marshall Breines. “We encourage Annapolis residents to read our summary of achievements demonstrated in our filing to know the facts.

"We look forward to finally moving forward with this major investment in the city which will generate new jobs, new tax revenues, an expanded Wellness House and innovative services for seniors who want to live in Annapolis,” Breines said.

In addition to being held to the most stringent environmental standards, Crystal Spring has been required to submit more plan details than any other previous proposal in the City of Annapolis.  The current FCP achieves forest conservation and environmental preservation well above State of Maryland and even City of Annapolis requested standards, including:

1.    The state code establishes a “break-even” point for forest conservation above which no reforestation or mitigation is required.  The City of Annapolis has requested that Crystal Spring exceed the state conservation threshold by 33% and the break-even point by 15%.  In fact, the submitted FCP demonstrates we have exceeded the state forest conservation threshold by 146% and the break-even point by more than 30%    

2.     The Maryland Department of Environment establishes setbacks from wetlands and intermittent streams at 25 and 50 ft respectively.  The City of Annapolis has requested that Crystal Spring provide a 100ft buffer from all environmental features, if possible.  In fact, the submitted FCP demonstrates we have a total of 7,573 linear feet of environmental feature perimeter to buffer and that we have provided in excess of 100 ft for 94% of that length and between 50 and 100ft for 6%.  Buffer averaging would yield an average well in excess of 200ft.

3.     The City of Annapolis staff, environmental advocates and the Mayor have asked that Crystal Spring adjust its site plan to not develop in the “middle” section of the property which includes non-tidal wetlands and has an intermittent drainage way and some slopes in excess of 15%.  In fact, the submitted FCP demonstrates that this request has been achieved and no environmental features are impacted – and only 2.7 acres is disturbed out of 33 total forested acres in the rear of the property.  A 50+ acre wildlife corridor has been created through the middle of the property.

4.     The City of Annapolis Comprehensive Plan sets a goal of 50% tree canopy by the year 2036 and Crystal Spring has been asked to demonstrate it achieves 50%.  In fact, the submitted FCP demonstrates we will achieve a 61% tree canopy.  This is greater than 20% above the staff requested level.

In addition to the above specific FCP / code responses, a total of more than 130 acres of property will be put in open space or forest conservation easements out of a total of 190 acres of property which constitute the proposed development tract and the property to be retained by its present owners.  Today, the entire City of Annapolis only has 104 acres in forest conservation easements.

These highlight achievements have come over a long process of working with City staff.  Attached is an evolution plan showing how the site plan has changed over time.  In fact, the submitted FCP demonstrates that only 30% of the development tract will be developed with building footprints, parking and roads.

Crystal Spring looks forward to its FCP submission being approved and moving forward to its Planned Development Application submission and final review and public hearings by the Planning Commission. Click here to view a comparison of site plans submitted since 2011.

Crystal Spring: A Source for Job Growth and Economic Development

December 15, 2014

According to a study conducted for Crystal Spring Development by economist Anirban Basu, now a member of Gov.-Elect Larry Hogan's transition team, the Crystal Spring Annapolis development will deliver the much-needed inflow of tax dollars and jobs that local leaders are calling for:

- The project will bring a total of 1,049 jobs to the local community — in addition to more than 1,000 construction-related positions — ultimately generating more than $30 million in wages and followed by a lot of spending in the community;

- More than $900,000 in net annual fees and taxes will be paid by Crystal Spring to the City of Annapolis. The City will receive that amount  EACH year, and AFTER the costs for municipal services such as police and emergency personnel are accounted for.

- An additional $1 million per year will be paid to Anne Arundel County in net fees and taxes.

While private investment in the City should be welcome news, some are still pushing an anti-business agenda that is doing nothing but stalling this investment in Annapolis. We look forward to securing approval for the project to move forward and delivering the fees, taxes and jobs for the community.

Note: Anirban Basu was profiled in this story Sunday in The Baltimore Sun for the role he is playing with the new administration. In making the transition team announcement, Gov.-Elect Hogan said: "He's the smartest guy in the State when it comes to economic policy and ideas about how we can get our economy moving. I can't think of anybody smarter to get us advice about how we can put Maryland on a better foot and turn our economy around.”

A Vision for Vibrant Retirement Living

December 3, 2014

Guest Posting by Courtney Malengo, Director of Communications, National Lutheran Communities & Services


The Village at Crystal Spring—A National Lutheran Community is the proposed continuing care retirement community (CCRC) located within Crystal Spring Annapolis. From the beginning, The Village at Crystal Spring (TVCS) has been a planned component of the larger, integrated Crystal Spring Annapolis neighborhood to include the element of mixed-use.

The vision for TVCS is that seniors are vibrantly connected to the community around them, with the security of health care at their fingertips. Seniors will be within walking distance of many amenities including retail, restaurants, a cultural arts center and more; but can also retain privacy once they return to their respective residences on campus. We envision residents using their village identification cards to pay for a meal in the CCRC, as well as any goods or services in the adjacent restaurants and shops. Many of the health care services will be provided directly in the residences on campus. This care model allows for enhanced independence and decreased separations from a spouse/significant other, providing safety is not compromised.

Another unique element about this setting for a CCRC is that it allows for intergenerational interactions and relationships—something many recent retirees are looking for. This mixed-use, intergenerational concept represents the next wave of retirement communities, and it is what makes this project so attractive to more than 2400 area seniors.

For more information on The Village at Crystal Spring, please visit www.thevillageatcrystalspring.org 

Private Investment by Crystal Spring Will Add to Forest Drive Traffic Improvements

November 10, 2014

It was good news for everyone concerned about Forest Drive traffic to read the staff report in a recent edition of The Capital ("Signal Upgrades Aim to Improve Forest Drive Traffic").

The article reports that through County and Baltimore Regional Transportation Board funding sources, 12 intersections along Forest Drive will get the automated traffic monitoring systems that have been successfully used on Riva Road to reduce travel time by up to 26 percent.

The City's initial preliminary traffic studies regarding Crystal Spring note the positive impact that traffic light synchronization would have on the outcome of the study but did not reflect those impacts in its findings. Based on those preliminary findings, Crystal Spring would be required to continue the widening of Forest Drive from the Hilltop Lane intersection to Spa Road and construct a dedicated southbound right turn only lane onto Spa Road as well as a new additional dedicated left turn lane from Spa Road to head north on Forest Drive. These road improvements will further enhance the Forest Drive traffic outcomes.

 

But this is not all the change that is being planned.

Relief Road Will Allow Travelers to Avoid Forest Drive
The Crystal Spring project has been required to construct a new relief road that would run parallel to Forest Drive, connecting Forest Drive to Bywater Road. This would enable travelers to avoid Forest Drive entirely to reach destinations to / from neighborhood shopping and the Bywater communities.

Project Changes Have Reduced Traffic Estimates
Recent changes to the Crystal Spring project, as a consequence of its preservation of a 50+ acre wildlife corridor through its property, has resulted in a reduction in the initially proposed development by 40,000 square feet of retail, 40 Inn & Spa rooms and 53 residential units. This will reduce the earlier preliminary estimates of traffic generation by one-third.

Shuttle Service Will Serve as Alternative to Private Vehicles
To further reduce traffic generation, the Crystal Spring project will be providing its own shuttle service for residents, and staff of the community that will connect to downtown and provide an alternative for local employee use of private vehicles.

Non-Rush Hour and Reverse Commuters
As a walkable mixed-use development anchored by its Continuing Care Retirement Community (The Village at Crystal Spring), the traffic from Crystal Spring will be less than other potential development scenarios and during non-rush hour. In addition, the vast majority of employees will be reverse commuting.

We look forward to working with City and County transportation professionals to make sure that the Forest Drive corridor traffic / intersection conditions work to serve the needs of the people living on the Annapolis Neck and all area residents.

Meet National Lutheran Communities & Services

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.
 
Click here to view a map showing the NLCS program service locations and communities.
 
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.
 
To learn more about The Village at Crystal Spring, visit www.thevillageatcrystalspring.org

'Where to Retire' Magazine Names Annapolis a Top Retirement Destination

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.

The Truth About Annexation, "Farmettes" and Water Access

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.

They say:
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.

Response to Rick Kissel: Have the Goal Posts Been Moved Again?

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?

Statement Regarding Eye on Annapolis Coverage of 'Crystal Spring Defense Fund' Tactics

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.
 

'Please Stop Spinning It as if Something That Once Belonged to Annapolitans is Being Taken Away from Them'

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."

Seniors Wait, Jobs on Hold as Institutionalized Delays Continue

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.

Crystal Spring Revises Estimated Job Creation

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.

   

Master Associations

 

CCRC

 

Retail

Inn & Spa

 

Office

 

Total

Management

 

1

6

42

10

10

69

Professional

 

2

61

98

40

40

241

Property / maintenance

 

12

23

43

6

6

90

Service related & other

 

3

166

432

5

43

649

Total Jobs

 

18

256

615

61

99

1,049

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.

Annapolis Environmental Commission Exhibits Its Biased Agenda

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.

Crystal Spring Would Close 45% of the City of Annapolis Budget Shortfall

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.

*Proposed Continuing Care Retirement Community is subject to approval by the Maryland Department of Aging.
Recent Tweets
  • Tue Mar 03, 2015 "Daughter says "listen to us!" in today's @capgaznews letter to editor: http://t.co/TRElcE5Yfv "Residents want this project to move forward.""
  • Fri Feb 13, 2015 "Crystal Spring would close 45% of City's budget deficit (from our blog, originally posted Aug. 4, 2014): http://t.co/mQfOCyPldr"
  • Thu Feb 12, 2015 "More than $900,000 in net annual fees/taxes will be paid by @CrystalSpring_ to City EACH year, and AFTER costs for municipal services."
  • Thu Feb 12, 2015 ""Crystal Spring: A Source for Job Growth and Economic Development" [blog post] http://t.co/R8870bC2fF"
  • Thu Feb 12, 2015 "Misconceptions about @CrystalSpring_ are addressed in this @capgaznews video: http://t.co/ax3ZGCg5kH"
  • Wed Feb 11, 2015 ""Crystal Spring: A Source for Job Growth and Economic Development" [blog post] http://t.co/R8870bC2fF"
  • Tue Feb 10, 2015 "RT @MDBiz: This morning, Gov @LarryHogan visited DBED to share his message that Maryland is open for business. #Open4BizMD http://t.co/0SNL…"
  • Mon Feb 09, 2015 "Crystal Spring would close 45% of City's budget deficit (from our blog, originally posted Aug. 4, 2014): http://t.co/mQfOCyPldr"
  • Mon Feb 09, 2015 "Our #jobs program includes employee transportation, opportunities for minority businesses, job training and a returning Veteran initiative."
  • Mon Feb 09, 2015 "RT @Schuh2014: My column in the Baltimore Sun on why "open for business" is a good thing.... http://t.co/YKwLBafFzX"

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