The Capital: “Crystal Spring developers to tweak proposed site boundaries”

Capital Gazette: March 2, 2016

By: Chase Cook, Capital Gazette reporter

Newly submitted documents for the proposed Crystal Spring development have concerned environmentalists in Annapolis, as it appears the developer is expanding into land that was originally targeted for conservation.

Developers and city officials say that isn’t the case, and that the amended Forest Stand Delineation report is merely a natural resources inventory for the entire property, which is about 187 acres.

About 111 acres of that land has been targeted for development into a $200 million mixed-use, senior-living project with retail and a hotel. This makes it the largest development in city history, which has created some controversy.

Crystal Spring developers said the originally proposed lines for the project site are likely to change. Detailed engineering of stormwater management — done at the behest of the city — means developers are reconsidering where to define Crystal Spring’s boundaries.

Marshall Breines, Affirmative Hillspoint, LLC. president and developer of the property, said the proposed lines of the Crystal Spring site will be tweaked to keep the stormwater work within the development site and away from the 75 acres that will eventually be placed under a conservation easement.

The originally proposed 111-acre boundary will likely get smaller, he said.

“It is more complicated than it deserves to be,” Breines said. “It is not going to look crazy different, but it will look different.”

What the Crystal Spring’s developers have done is amend the Forest Stand Delineation Report, which tracks and inventories the natural resources on a plot of land, such as forests.

Initially, this was done for the 111 acres that was proposed as the Crystal Spring site, approved by the city in 2013. But the entire Crystal Spring project hasn’t gotten any traction as Mayor Mike Pantelides’ administration has rejected the previous two forest conservation plans, which typically follow an FSD.

Forest Conservation Plans are an important initial step in the development process, as they lay out how the development impacts the natural resources that have been listed in the FSD.

The modified report now includes the Crystal Spring site and what has been known as the Mas-Que Farm portion through the developers’ proposals. This is roughly 187 acres of inventoried natural resources, up from the 111 in the 2013 FSD. Since the property hasn’t been officially subdivided, the developers attest that the entire area is technically Mas-Que Farm, until Crystal Spring is approved.

Maria Broadbent, director of neighborhood and environmental programs, echoed a similar sentiment, saying the report doesn’t change anything because nothing has been finalized.

As the developers have been crafting their Forest Conservation Plan, the city has pushed them to include detailed stormwater management analysis. Because of this, the developers realized they may disturb different sections of the land, so the amended delineation report keeps track of what could be impacted, she said.

Broadbent’s department hasn’t finished its review of the amended report.

“This gives us the best information that we can have about the entire piece of the property,” Broadbent said.

But environmentalists have raised concerns about including the rest of Mas-Que farm in the report. By doing so, it makes it seem like the developers want to develop on that land, said Gerald Winegrad, former state senator and an environmentalist.

The farm must be protected and there is no reason to include it in the Forest Stand Delineation report if they don’t plan to develop on it, he said.

“Let’s get that (conservation) easement signed before anything is approved,” Winegrad said.

Pantelides admitted that the new FSD could create some confusion, as the proposed property lines haven’t changed in the last two iterations of the plans submitted to the city. Pantelides has pushed back against the Crystal Spring developers, saying they need to scale back the property.

Throughout the process, nobody really talked about it as one property, he said. It was Crystal Spring, he said, and then Mas-Que Farm.

“I was kind of surprised and taken aback by it,” he said. “Moving the line is going to cause some confusion with the public and the (city) council.”

What is known is that the Crystal Spring developers want to make modifications to their proposed lines for the development, and for Mas-Que Farm to be conserved. What isn’t known yet is what those lines will look like.

Breines said that things are still being tweaked as they go through stormwater management engineering. Those lines will be part of the Forest Conservation Plan, which is anticipated to be submitted this month, although it has been delayed a few months already. It would be the third plan submitted to the city under the Pantelides administration.

Diane Butler, a member of the Annapolis Environmental Commission, said the developers need to make sure they live up to the annexation agreement and conserve 75 acres of property.

“I have no doubt the city would enforce stormwater compliance on-site and not offload it onto Mas-Que Farm,” Butler said.

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