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Annapolis mayor responds to outcry over City Dock proposal

Date: Capital Gazette, June 26, 2018, E.B. Furgurson III

Citing Mayor Gavin Buckley’s rezoning proposal for City Dock, the National Trust for Preservation put Annapolis’ Historic District and City Dock on its annual 11 most threatened historic sites list on Tuesday.

The announcement was made at a press conference in a garden space under a billboard behind a chain link fence with Historic Annapolis, Preservation Maryland, and elected officials.

Speakers on Tuesday decried the proposed rezoning that includes a possible hotel as a threat to the 50-plus year historic preservation effort that created the heritage tourism industry that brought the city back from sad economic conditions in the 1960s.

Buckley, who was not invited, showed up.

“We all want the same thing. We want a better downtown,” he said, after being added to the end of the list of planned speakers. “I am here to find a way. We can re-imagine City Dock together.”

Buckley’s original proposal would rezone City Dock to accommodate a proposed hotel and establish mixed-uses similar to West Street and wave Historic District height and bulk restrictions if the project adheres to visual “performance controls” outlined in the Cultural Landscape Report. That report is due in the coming weeks.

He said he was not married to the proposal.

“We should not let today’s historic treasure become tomorrow’s regret,” said Tom Mayes, vice president and senior counsel of the National Trust. “Annapolis deserves redevelopment that embraces the remarkable heritage of this community … and provides compatible growth within the framework of the existing preservation guidelines.”

Historic Annapolis President and CEO Robert Clark cited the loss of height and bulk restrictions. “Mixed use is not the right path and the removal of height and bulk restrictions threatens decades of efforts to preserve the authentic human scale setting that equals the Annapolis experience,”

HAF rejects any plan that is directly at odds with our historic preservation, he said. “Changing zoning to meet passing political desires is no way to treat this historic place,” he said. “(And) could permanently impair the heritage tourism economy which makes Annapolis the envy of so many historic communities.”

He said the best plan will be a collective vision, “that protects viewsheds, respects environmental concerns and presents a context sensitive design that maintains our historic character and resident’s way of life,” Clark added.

Retiring Sen. John Astle, who has lived just up the street in a historic home on Fleet Street, said revitalizing City Dock could happen without changing the zoning. “The MX just opens it up to make it more profitable for the developer.”

County Executive Steve Schuh noted Buckley was elected with a mandate for change and that the futures of both the county and city are intertwined.

“We all recognize change must come and we all agree that City Dock, the most spectacular place in the U.S., should not be a parking lot.”

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