These are the principal problems with the garage proposal as presented by the city:
1. Safety of the children and school community would be compromised.
a. A 1999 Department of Justice Survey lists parking garages as the second and third most likely site of non-violent and violent crime, respectively. Late last month a couple was robbed at gunpoint at the Annapolis Mall parking lot.
b. No design is impenetrable, so the promise of a ‘green wall’ does little to assuage our concerns.
c. If the design includes a relocated playground across Compromise Street, there are serious safety considerations of having children crossing this busy thoroughfare.
d. If the basketball court is moved to the other side of Neumann Street, this also adds a street crossing that will only get busier over time.
e. The parking lot is currently used by teachers and staff. If we force them to park in the garage (reducing whatever capacity the garage offers), then they are subject to the aforementioned safety concerns.
2. Health of the school community would be compromised.
a. Catalytic converters that reduce pollutants need a warm engine to function, so parked cars starting in the garage would deliver even greater pollutants to our children’s lungs than those vehicles traveling on Compromise Street today. Anne Arundel County already falls within the 90th percentile for worst air quality nationally and many of our children, already have asthma, despite a lack of family history for the disease.
b. Currently the playspace we enjoy is appx 21,000 square feet when the basketball courts, the playground, and the blacktop area are included. With this proposal, the usable playspace drops to under 7,000 square feet. According to researcher Alain Legendre of the French National Center for Scientific Research, 54 square feet of accessible play space per child is required to minimize children’s stress levels. Our playspace would drop to well below minimum levels with this proposal.
c. Childhood obesity is rampant in our community. Our Mighty Milers program has to loop this school 8 times to get a mile while all of our sister schools have access to other more reasonable options. We’re a small urban school that only this year is no longer Title 1. For many of our kids this playground may be their only safe outdoor play. Reducing our already limited playspace by over 60% will only exacerbate that.
3. There may be strong legal barriers which would prevent this garage from becoming a reality.
a. The playground was deeded to the children of Annapolis in 1901. They have a legal claim to it.
b. The City of Annapolis has never enforced the restrictions that the playground, basketball courts and park areas be used SOLELY by children attending public school in the City of Annapolis. Since others have used this property for more than 20 years and without seeking permission, there is a real danger that some are entitled to claim and prove that they have obtained a prescriptive easement to continue to use this property and that any effort by the City to put the property to different use would be a violation of that easement.
c. In 2005 the Attorney General of Maryland was asked to determine if the Board of Education for Harford County Public Schools had the inherent power to lease some of their property to a private corporation who promised to give them $500K and roughly twice as much land (worth over $1M) on a different side of the school’s property. The Maryland Attorney General declared that the Board of Education could not make such arrangements without the cooperation and consent of both the State Board of Education and the County Council. This transaction deprived the Bd of Education of the power to use land over which it is Trustee. It was tanatmount to declaring the property surplusage that is not needed by the school system. Maryland law dictates that if the Bd of Education finds that the land is not necessary for the schools programs, it must (1) declare the property to be surplusage and (2) convey TITLE to the property to THE COUNTY GOVERNMENT. A lease arrangement cannot be used to circumvent these requirements. The law does not anticipate that property will be used to make income for the Bd of Education rather than to be used for its required activities. See 91 Op Atty General 33 (2006)
4. The city has yet to prove that there is a need for additional parking downtown.
a. This garage at best trades space for space and is actually a net loss for the city, as accommodations would need to be made for teacher and staff access to the garage at no cost.
b. The City Dock Advisory Commission has never been allowed time to review other alternatives to bring the city’s goal of getting cars off of Ego Alley to fruition.
c. The city owns a plethora of parking spaces. Currently many of the spaces in Hillman garage are used by city employees and the 580 spaces that the city bought to help bail out Park Place are often empty.
d. There are frequently empty spaces along Main Street, regardless of time of day.
5. There are also problems with this proposal from an equity standpoint.
a. AES PTA helped pay for the city park at the corner of Compromise and Neumann Streets
b. AES PTA has helped pay for the playground equipment that exists today
c. AES staff (most notably the principal) helps to patrol the current playground every single day, picking up litter and occasionally waking sleeping homeless residents. AES has helped to make this park the success that it is today and will continue to do so in the future.