Vision of City Dock: Action committee focuses on need for financing authority
Date: Capital Gazette, July 28, 2019, Angela Roberts
For Annapolis to brace itself against the changing climate — and the storm surges, rising sea levels and temperature shifts that come with it — the city is going to shell out a lot of money.
To efficiently finance projects to combat the effects of a warming planet, city consultant Dan Nees has been talking with the city for years about creating some kind of entity that would report to the city government and specialize in finding funding through measures such as working with the private sector and tracking down grants.
But lately, Nees said this effort has gained traction as the City Dock Action Committee engages the public through its work to imagine the future of the Annapolis waterfront. In meeting with residents through workshops and approaching them during surveys, Nees said the committee has spread a clear understanding of why it’s important to bolster the city’s resilience mechanisms.
“It’s given us a huge boost,” he said. “It’s demonstrated that the city can come together.”
In the spring, the city partnered with the nonprofit Historic Annapolis to launch the action committee to study the findings of a report on City Dock and elaborate upon its recommendations with long-term and short-term action items. The committee first started meeting in March, and is set to release its final recommendations in October.
Over the last 3½ months, the finance team has come to the same conclusion as Nees: a specialized commission is needed to financially support all of the improvements that the action committee will ultimately recommend.
The finance team is planning to ask the city to create such a commission when the action committee releases its final recommendations in October, said John Hammond, the team’s leader. It has even come up with a name for the entity: the Capital City 21st Century Commission.
To hear Nees explain the need for this group, it would provide flexibility to taxpayers and the city while promoting innovation in funding. This is because it would lay the responsibility for financing projects in the hands of financial experts.
In essence, Amazon could figure out how to bake bread, Nees said, but why not leave that up to people already specializing in that activity?
A resilience financing report conducted by the University of Maryland also put pressure on Annapolis to consider establishing a financing authority back in January.
This report found that neither the revenue the city currently takes in nor its borrowing capacity would be enough to foot the large bill that would come with girding Annapolis against climate change. A financing authority could work to get investors interested in chipping in to help Annapolis on its path to long-term resiliency.
If created, Hammond said the Capital City 21st Century Commission would help finance the long-needed redevelopment of the Hillman Parking Garage. Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley has floated the idea of funding this project through a public-private partnership.
But perhaps most pressing, the commission could guide Annapolis in confronting sea-level rise.
“It’s not as though we can choose to do nothing anymore,” said Eileen Fogarty, chair of the City Dock Action Committee. “You know, the dock is underwater 50 days a year. And it’s only going to get worse.”