City Council Passes Divisive Garage Resolution

Coverage of the City Council meeting and vote from Annapolis Patch:

A controversial proposal to build a parking garage at the site of a school playground is moving forward.

Following a highly emotional—nearly four-hour—public hearing, the council passed a resolution early Tuesday morning directing the city to negotiate a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Compromise LLC, a local developer that plans to build a parking garage on top of the Annapolis City Playground.

The garage, which would also include retail and office space, would allow the city to remove about 200 parking spaces from the city dock to create a more “green” space.

“It’s an MOU only that we’re voting on,” Alderman Fred Paone (R-2nd Ward) said. “It’s not a contract per se. It’s nothing anywhere near a completed deal.”

Alderwoman Classie Hoyle (D-3rd Ward) said she supports the proposed garage. She said she was struck by Compromise LLC’s willingness to help the city. The developer intends to privately finance the construction of the garage.

Hoyle said that in the future, 95 percent of the kids using the playground, located on Compromise Street, will forget about it.

“This is the direction we need to go in,” Hoyle said. “I think six months from now it won’t be an issue.”

Mayor Josh Cohen, Alderman Ian Pfeiffer (D-7th Ward) and Alderman Richard Israel (D-1st Ward) voted against the proposal.

Cohen, who had previously supported the proposal, said he now doesn’t feel the project is the right use of the space.

“What we need is an overall vision, and a plan to achieve that vision,” he said. “Personally, I’ve come to the conclusion that this isn’t right for the site.”

City Hall was packed with residents and merchants who attended the public hearing prior to the vote. At one point, Cohen told the crowd that the fire marshal said six people would have to leave the room because it was over capacity.

About 50 people shared testimony before the council.

Orlando Ridout V strongly opposed the proposal because he said it would disrupt a planned $27 million renovation to Annapolis Elementary School, which is in front of the playground.

“We have to recognize a train wreck when we see it coming,” Ridout said.

Some merchants supported the proposal because they said they feel it could alleviate the loss of parking expected during the renovation of the Noah Hillman parking garage—located near the center of downtown—scheduled for 2015. The overhaul is expected to take two years to complete, which could hurt the businesses.

Sean O’Neill, president of the Annapolis Business Association, said the garage is critical.

“What we want to make sure we’re aware of is that we need convenient parking for a vibrant community,” O’Neill said.

Delegate Ron George (R-Arnold) said he doesn’t know the issues well enough to take a stance but, as a business owner, he said convenient parking is essential to the survival of businesses.

“Parking has not been an issue lately because there are so many empty storefronts,” George said.

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