The Capital: “New plan for Providence Point development about to land in Annapolis”

Capital Gazette: January 3, 2019

By: Danielle Ohl, Capital Gazette Reporter

A new application is about to revive the Villages at Providence Point, a 300-plus-unit retirement community long stalled by community opposition in Annapolis.

Nonprofit developer National Lutheran Communities and Services will submit an application following a community meeting held Thursday night to discuss adjustments to the controversial project.

More that 120 residents trickled into St. Martin’s Evangelical Lutheran Church for the meeting, quickly outnumbering the chairs set out. City staff, elected officials and Annapolis residents, including the elderly, sat on the floor — drawing some outrage.

As the presentations started, some spoke up:

“This is a meeting about the elderly and the elderly can’t hear and are sitting on the floor,” said resident Patricia Mays.

Over clanging chairs and displeased grumbles, engineers, architects and consultants detailed the plans.

The updated proposal, coming in the next two weeks, will comprise 303 independent living apartments and 48 assisted units.

The weighted average entrance fee for a regular contract is $485,000, said National Lutheran chief executive officer Larry Bradshaw, drawing some gasps.

“You talked about diversity in trees,” said Toni Pratt, resident and former aldermanic candidate. “With the price range of this, we won’t have too much diversity in people.”

Residents expressed concern with how the potential 500 new residents and 100 employees will affect traffic on Spa Road and Forest Drive.

One woman described getting stuck in such impenetrable traffic on Forest Drive, she couldn’t get home to her dog and child.

“How is it you can have an aged facility where you might physically not be able to get ambulances in or out?” she asked.

Attorney Alan Hyatt, representing National Lutheran in their application, said he didn’t have an answer.

Transportation planner Nancy Randall showed the crowd a schematic of additional turn lanes and widening on Spa Road, designed to allow thru traffic to flow unimpeded by those entering and exiting Providence Point.

Providence Point is the second iteration of a similar project named the Villages at Crystal Spring. National Lutheran Communities and Services put forward both proposals. Both have met fierce opposition from environmental activists trying to protect nearby Crab Creek and preserve forest slated for clearing.

An application submitted in 2017 scaled back the initial proposal but still couldn’t win city approval. The city rejected applications for a subdivision, site design plan, special exception and variance as incomplete.

City planning and zoning staff recommended the developers take a different approach and began working with National Lutheran on a planned development application in early 2018.

Stop Crystal Spring, an activist group initially driven by opposition to the original proposal, met twice with National Lutheran in July and September 2018 to discuss concerns with the project, said leader and former state senator Gerald Winegrad.

Stop Crystal Spring has four outstanding demands for the project related to forest protection, stormwater management and traffic.

Representatives told the residents gathered for the meeting the project would clear 30 acres of forest. Stop Crystal Spring wants to see that number drop.

Additionally, the group wants National Lutheran and nearby Mas Que Farm to place undeveloped forest around the future retirement complex and the equestrian center in a conservation easement. The easement would quash any future development, except for redevelopment of the Wellness House for recovering cancer patients and minor upgrades to the equestrian center.

Bradshaw said at the meeting there would be some sort of easement protecting the forest.

Stop Crystal Spring also wants the developers to adhere to a higher standard of stormwater treatment and to build an access road from the community to the nearby CVS and Safeway.

The meeting Thursday was one of the first held under a new law requiring developers to meet with the public at least two weeks before submitting an application. Providence Point will also be subject to a “no net loss” policy, passed in late 2018, requiring every tree knocked down to be replaced.

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