Mayor wants to put the brakes on garage plan

The Annapolis Capital reports:

Mayor Josh Cohen is backing away from a plan to build a $25 million parking garage near Annapolis Elementary School after months of negotiations with a developer and county schools.

Yet some members of the City Council are fighting to keep a private developer’s proposal alive.

Alderwoman Sheila Finlayson, D-Ward 4, and Alderman Ross Arnett, D-Ward 8, have called an emergency meeting Monday evening to vote on a resolution solidifying the City Council’s interest in the garage construction project. The legislation also would set a course for sole negotiations with Compromise LLC, a group led by developer Jerome J. Parks, on a contract to build and manage it.

Cohen will vote no, he said.

Though he has been the project’s most vocal advocate, referring to it as a once-in-a-lifetime development opportunity and a way to enhance City Dock revitalization efforts, it became clear to him over time that the proposed site wasn’t a “viable” location, he said. Construction difficulties, the displacement of a popular playground, a strict timeline and space constraints are among the challenges, he said.

Engineers discovered the garage can’t go below ground because of the floodplain and it couldn’t go many levels up because of zoning height restrictions, he said. It can’t expand outward because the property is landlocked, he said.

“We just can’t fit a square peg in a round hole,” Cohen said.

He also realized the loss of sufficient recreational space at the school — a playground and the basketball court — were deal breakers.

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