Capital Op-Ed: “Crystal Spring Plan Still Falls Short”

Capital Gazette: David Prosten, September 25, 2017

By: David Prosten, Former Chairman, Sierra Club Anne Arundel County

Over the years the developers of Crystal Spring over have employed an incredible range of tactics to win approval of their project, but their latest gambit deserves a special prize.

A letter that I, as chairman of the county Sierra Club, and 25 other community leaders sent to then-Mayor Josh Cohen in 2013, outlining our objections to Crystal Spring, is being used today to suggest that we now consider everything fine and dandy.

Huh? Welcome to the spin zone.

The letter was from Concerned Citizens for Proper Land Use, our collective group opposing the development. Other signers included former Gov. Parris Glendening, former state Sen. Gerald Winegrad, former County Council member Barbara Samorajczyk, former Mayor Ellen Moyer and former Del. Dick D’Amato, as well as leaders of the Annapolis Neck Peninsula Federation, the Severn Riverkeeper and the former chair of the Annapolis Planning Commission.

Our concerns included one that has been resolved, at least according to the developer’s latest plan, and upon which the city Planning and Zoning Office had insisted: that the construction be moved north of the intermittent stream that runs through the property.

Because the developers have made that change in their plans, they imply they’ve met our concerns. That’s like a mugger who leaves you penniless but claims generosity because he didn’t take your shoes as well.

The reality is that many of the objections outlined in the letter have not been met. For example, in the 2013 development plan:

Thirty-six acres of priority forest were to be cleared – old-growth trees that are supposed to be preserved. The latest plan would clear 39.5 acres, a 10 percent increase.

The developers had pledged to permanently protect all forest remaining, replanting an acre of trees for every acre they cut down. Their current plan calls for replanting only 16.5 of they 39.5 acres they would bulldoze, and leveling even more “protected” trees than planned in 2013.

The 2013 plan called for about 536 new houses and apartments. We objected, noting that the Comprehensive Plan calls for no more than 140 housing units on the land. But the developers’ current plan calls for 383 senior living units, and at least another 160 non-age-restricted units could be built separately from the senior living units.

The 36-suite health center proposed in 2013 is now one-third larger: 48 suites.

The site’s main building in 2013 was a six-story, 283-unit continuing care retirement community complex. Today it’s four stories and 315 units, thus destroying more forest because of its bigger footprint. And, of course, more impervious surface means more stormwater runoff.

Our concerns in 2013 about impact on traffic and the additional strain on an already-overcrowded school system remain, and, of course, things have only gotten worse over the past four-and-a-half years.

Yet development plans today offer no solutions. Most of the traffic from the more than 600 new residents and the trucks and other vehicles that serve them would dump into the already stressed intersection of Forest Drive and Spa Road.

So, yes, since 2013 the commercial and retail aspects of the project were dropped and the continuing care development was moved north of the stream. Any progress is good.

But that doesn’t mean all is well — far from it. It will take more than changing the name from Crystal Spring to Providence Point to make this project acceptable.

Compliments to Planning and Zoning professionals for sending the most recent plans back to the developers as “inconsistent, incomplete, (and lacking) analysis and detail …the plans are difficult to read and understand.”

We agree, and continue to insist that if development comes to Crystal Spring, it adds to, rather than diminishes, the city’s environment and quality of life.

David Prosten, who now lives in Massachusetts, is the immediate past chairman of the Anne Arundel Sierra Club.

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