ANNAPOLIS, Md. (June 10, 2016) – Today, the leadership and supporters of Stop Crystal Spring urged city leaders to further strengthen a newly introduced City Council Resolution (R-21-16) that would reform the terms of the 2005 Annexation Agreement between the City and the owners of the Crystal Spring and Mas Que Farm properties. The Resolution was introduced by the Mayor and two Aldermen after the City Attorney found violations of the original Agreement and associated Public Facilities Agreement, as well as outdated provisions needing reform. The Resolution would require the Council to try to reform the Agreement on terms mutually agreeable to the owner and the City.
“While we commend the diligence of the City Attorney and the Mayor’s Administration in determining that the developers are in violation of terms of the original agreement, the Resolution R-21-16 does not go far enough,” said Gerald Winegrad, former State Senator and Stop Crystal Spring coordinator. “These serious and irresponsible breaches, one of which actually led to additional costs for taxpayers, should not simply be subject to a renegotiation of terms where the outcome is dependent upon the agreement of the party in violation. Moreover, given the radical changes we’ve seen in the development plan since the original agreement was signed, the Mayor and Council should reconsider the previous annexation and revoke the Annexation Agreement.”
The primary breach of the original Agreement is the owner’s failure to have all existing structures connected to City water and sewer within one year, as stipulated in the original agreement. There was a provision that allowed for annual extensions that could delay such services for up to 10 years, but the owners have failed to file for any extensions. According to the City Attorney, this failure has resulted in higher fire insurance for all City homeowners and businesses due to the ISO Rating 2. Collectively, this has cost City residents and businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The development plan for Crystal Spring has changed drastically since the original Annexation Agreement was signed and approved by the City Council in 2005. Although some commercial development was planned closer to Forest Drive, the owner envisioned the majority of the development would be 3-5 acre farmettes. Since then, the development has morphed into a massive high-density, complex with nearly 500 housing units, a 75-suite assisted living facility, a senior recreation center, a chapel, and over 170,000 square feet of commercial and retail space including an 80-room hotel, a large grocery store, restaurants, and a drive-in bank.
The original Agreement included a plan for a parallel road, which would run from Aris T. Allen Boulevard through the Crystal Spring property to Spa Road to relieve congestion. This parallel road was also included in the City’s Comprehensive Plan, but has since been abandoned as too costly. Instead, the City has required a much shorter parallel road to run from Skipper’s Lane, behind the CVS, through Crystal Spring and connect to Forest Drive at Gemini Drive. The original Agreement clearly states that “[t]he developer of the property will make an equitable contribution to the cost of the relief road.” City officials estimate the road will cost more than $10 million, but the siting and agreement for the developers’ equitable contribution still need to be negotiated. The costs of siting and construction of this road will affect all city taxpayers, as will the cost of maintenance for the road.
Another issue that has been raised many times by opponents and City officials relates to the conservation easement for the 75 acre property adjoining Crystal Spring, known as Mas Que Farm. The 2005 Agreement requires that a conservation easement be placed on “approximately 75 acres in the general vicinity of the equestrian center […] in the area adjacent to Spa Road” once any development is approved for Crystal Spring. However, in the developers’ most recent Forest Stand Delineation filing (April 5th), they acknowledged that 11.58 acres on the Mas Que Farm site could not be included as this land is already under development. Thus, the acreage available for the 75 acre conservation easement has been reduced to only 64.52 acres.
The developers want to use some of the remaining 64 acres for stormwater management and, under an agreement with the owners, plan to substitute land in the Critical Area at the far southern end of the Crystal Spring property that was never going to be developed in order to reach the 75-acre requirement for the conservation easement. Any plan for development on the remaining land at Mas Que Farm, including for stormwater management, is a clear breach of the terms of the 2005 Annexation Agreement, as is the developers’ plan to use critical area land and other land at the far southern end of the property to compensate.
The owner of the property has publicly asserted that the acreage at Mas Que will be kept undeveloped in perpetuity but the developers proffered conservation easement would allow any development for agricultural purposes including the stripping of remaining forest. City leaders have reached a consensus that there needs to be a more definitive agreement as to where the lines for the conservation easement will begin and end.
“We have long argued that the City should stop processing the Crystal Spring development because of violations of the Annexation Agreement,” said Senator Winegrad. “Given the major changes we’ve seen in the development plan since the original agreement was signed, it only makes sense that the terms not only be settled in favor of the City, but that the violations of the terms and the antiquated Agreement result in a revocation of the Annexation Agreement itself.”
About Stop Crystal Spring
Stop Crystal Spring is a diverse group of citizens and organization leaders in the Annapolis area concerned about the massive and destructive development planned for Crystal Spring at the congested area of Forest Drive and Spa Road. Our opposition is based on the adverse impact this development will have on traffic, the environment, and school overcrowding.