Capital op-ed: Reject latest Crystal Spring development plans

Capital Gazette: August 6, 2017

By: Gerald Winegrad

After nearly five years of involvement in the battle to save the forests, fields and wetlands at Crystal Spring from a massive development, I was hopeful a sound plan could be worked out when the Connecticut developers gave up and departed.

But my hopes were dashed upon examining the plans submitted recently by one of the partners in the previous development, National Lutheran Communities and Services, or NLCS. In trying to recover the more than $3 million it had sunk into the old plan, the NLCS plans to increase its previous plan for 362 housing units to 383, expand the development’s footprint and eliminate more forest.

It also proposes a 48-suite health care center, a chapel, parking for at least 500, a new road through the project and a new intersection on Spa Road, south of the current one.

The developer’s new proposal should be rejected by the city because:

•The Forest Stand Delineation, so important to define which trees and forest must be preserved and replanted, is outdated, with field data from six to seven years ago.

•The size of the senior living project has not only increased since NLCS’ last plan but the main apartment building, with 315 units, would be lowered from six stories to only four. This means more impervious surface and polluted stormwater, and far more forest clearing.

•The project would destroy 27.5 acres of priority forest, including more than 60 larger specimen trees. Under the Forest Conservation Law, these forests and trees are to “be left in an undisturbed condition unless the applicant has demonstrated to the satisfaction of the city that reasonable efforts have been made to protect them and the plan cannot reasonably be altered.” Severe economic hardship must be proved to gain a variance. National Lutheran has not met this burden.

•The plan falls far short of NLCS’ pledge to replant all forest cleared.

•The pledge to manage or treat all stormwater on site, so as not to increase pollutant loads, has not been met. The plan will add to the pollution of Crab Creek.

•There will be an increase in traffic from 500 new residents and employees. The many trucks serving the residents will exacerbate severe traffic problems along Forest Drive, especially at Spa Road, where the intersection is failing. Despite repeated city admonitions, NLCS has failed to show where the required relief road would be located.

•The subdivision plan allows for an additional 12 acres of forest to be cleared on 18 acres adjoining the senior living. It could be developed with as many as 144 more homes.

The developers have heard most of these concerns, not only from our group and other members of the public, but from the city’s planning and zoning office and the Annapolis Environmental Commission. We are surprised at the failure of NLCS to address these issues, of which it is acutely aware. Unfortunately, it has refused to meet with leaders of our group, despite repeated requests to try and resolve our differences.

There are more than 36 senior living complexes within 10 miles of Crystal Spring, almost all with openings. Many more are coming, including 165 units at Brightview Annapolis, 5 miles from Crystal Spring on Route 178, and 88 units at Bay Village behind the CVS on Bay Ridge Road, 2 miles from Crystal Spring.

The Crystal Spring single-family homes with car ports will likely cost close to $1 million. The average price for all units will be about $500,000, with monthly fees averaging $2,500. This means all but the wealthiest local senior residents will be unable to afford to live there.

Until these issues are addressed, the plans must be rejected and the battle will continue to protect our natural heritage and quality of life.

Former state Sen. Gerald Winegrad, a 70-year resident of Annapolis represented the Annapolis area for 16 years. Contact him at

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