The Capital: “Annapolis accepts part of Crystal Spring application”

Capital Gazette: June 19, 2016

By: Chase Cook, Capital Gazette reporter

The city has accepted Crystal Spring’s Forest Stand Delineation, which sets the stage for developers to again initiate the formal application process for the project.

However, developers aren’t sure when they might submit a new plan after recent actions by the City Council.

The Department of Neighborhood and Environmental Programs accepted the project’s Forest Stand Delineation as “complete and correct” on Friday. The FSD is a catalog of the environmental aspects of the property and is a precursor to a Forest Conservation Plan, which details the basic layout of a project and its impact on the environment. The city received the revised FSD in April.

Developers of Crystal Spring say they are prepared to submit a Forest Conservation Plan, but recent actions by the City Council has them weighing their options.

It hasn’t been submitted because the city keeps asking for changes and seemingly delaying approval, said Crystal Spring developer Marshall Breines.

“We have to try and understand the messages being sent by these actions and understand what is the legal versus the informal process that is in front of us,” he said.

The Forest Conservation Plan, which has been ready since February, would feature a new property line that developers have been anxious to reveal. It reduces Crystal Spring’s property size from about 111 acres to about 99 acres.

That reduction was made to account for stormwater management needs, which shifted onto the Mas Que Farm property. The line was moved to ensure that stormwater management was done within the Crystal Springs boundary while still maintaining about 76 acres to account for the required conservation easement, Breines said.

Developers are hesitant to submit the Forest Conservation Plan after resolutions were introduced at the June 13 council meeting that would allow the city to redraft some of its annexation agreements. This could affect the property where Crystal Spring is expected to be located.

The resolutions were introduced because some believe those annexations haven’t complied with city laws by hooking up to the Annapolis water and sewer services.

The resolutions would allow the city to redraft the agreements, reset the clock on that breach and make tweaks to the annexations.

Alderman Sheila Finlayson, D-Ward 4, pushed back against those resolutions. Introduced bills typically don’t come up for discussion until the scheduled public hearing. Finlayson raised concerns that the move looked like the city was “trying to manipulate something” and she voted against them.

At that meeting, Alan Hyatt, who represents Crystal Spring, pushed back against the legislation, saying the developers haven’t breached the agreement and the city was stretching its interpretation of city law.

“(These resolutions) are improper and ill-conceived,” he told the council on June 13. “I suggest to you that is a very strained reading of the (city charter).”

At that same meeting, former City Attorney Mike Leahy defended the city’s decision to introduce the annexation legislation.

Once the city learned that those properties had not been properly hooked up, the city took action, he said.

If the resolutions are passed, the city’s planning commission would review the annexation agreements and work with the property owners to redraft them in terms that are “mutually agreeable” to both parties.

Opponents of Crystal Spring have applauded the city’s decision, but said city officials should nullify the agreement and start over.

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