By: Danielle Ohl, Capital Gazette reporter
National Lutheran Communities and Services submitted its most recent application for a 351-unit retirement community late last month. The project is the descendant of Crystal Springs, a sprawling mixed-use complex that drew fierce opposition from environmentalists and residents living near Forest Drive.
The latest iteration is called the Village at Providence Point. Though it shares some characteristics with its controversial ancestor, the new development is smaller and largely residential, the result of significant back and forth with city staff and community advocates.
Still, activists aren’t quite pleased with the update.
Here’s five things you need to know about the Providence Point project.
It’s big — but not as big as before
Providence Point encompasses 36 acres near the intersection of Forest Drive and Spa Road and will require land disturbance on about 35 acres of a 175-acre tract. It’s a retirement community that will include 30 cottages, two multi-residence buildings, eight duplexes and 48 assisted living units. The overall footprint shrank significantly from the 2011 plans, which included retail, an arts center and non-age restricted residential buildings. The development now contains buildings deemed for “continuing care,” be it independent or assisted living.
Under Buckley plan, developers and Annapolis residents could close their gap
The development will have entrances and exits on Spa Road and Forest Drive, which will connect to three roads. Buildings will go up on either side of Crystal Springs Farm Road. The developer will build a loop road around the southwestern perimeter of the community as well as a piece of Skippers Lane cutting through the middle.
Overall, the project is much smaller than the proposed Crystal Springs layout, but it adds about 21 acres of impervious surface.
The project will include widening Spa Road
The city-commissioned traffic study for the project, conducted in July 2018, uses 431 units to measure traffic, instead of the updated 351 units now comprising Providence Point. The city study predicts the development will add 64 morning trips and 68 afternoon trips to the overall traffic flow along the Forest Drive corridor. Where Forest Drive intersects with South Cherry Grove Avenue, Spa Road and Gemini Drive, cars pass at either an unstable flow, where any accident would cause major delay, or forced flow, where each car moves only when the car in front of it moves.
The Providence Point plans include two improvements to keep the intersections operating at status quo or slightly better.
The developer will widen Spa Road to include an additional left turn lane onto Forest Drive and a right turn lane into the property from Spa Road headed southbound. It will also repaint the lane configuration southbound on South Cherry Grove Avenue to include a dedicated left turn lane, shared right turn lane and a shared left. through and right lane. The Forest Drive access point will be right turn in and right turn out, and there will be a stop sign at the Spa Road access point.
The development will not connect Skippers Lane to create an access road from the community to CVS, Safeway and UPS stores, as the connecting land is private property. The parallel road is part of the 2009 Comprehensive plan, and remains a demand of the citizen activist group Stop Crystal Spring.
The project will use micro-bioretention to treat stormwater on-site
Most of the Providence Point site drains into Crab Creek, part of the impaired South River watershed. Smaller areas toward Forest Drive drain into city storm drains. The tract is also home to several wetlands, most south of the area where digging and building will occur.
The stormwater management plan uses an existing retention pond and added micro-bioretention areas to control stormwater. Engineers used a 10-year storm flow-rate to make stormwater management calculations. The Stop Crystal Springs group, as one of its four demands, asked National Lutheran to use a 20-year storm flow.
The current plan would treat about two inches of stormwater on 100 percent of the site. It is unclear if the plan will pass city review, as the City Council recently implemented a standard requiring new developments to address 125 percent of stormwater on-site.
National Lutheran plans to replacing zero trees
National Lutheran intends to put the remainder of the 175 acre in a conservation easement to bar any future development outside Masque Farm and Chesapeake Dressage Institute and a recovery house for cancer patients. Janet Richardson-Pearson, who owns part of the tract as well as the equestrian center, will file for a 75-acre easement on her portion. National Lutheran President Larry Bradshaw said, although the easement agreement is not in current filings, the nonprofit still intends to protect the rest of the forest.
The development will be disturbing “priority forest,” a designation for forests that should be protected under city and state law. The Providence Point project will retain 67 percent of the trees on-site, but requires a variance to build on the remainder of the site. The developer plans to remove 59 significant trees, or trees 24 inches or more in diameter at breast height.
The preliminary forest conservation plan applies a credit for the trees retained on-site. Using the credit, the developer proposes replanting none of the trees that will be cut down.
It’s unclear how this calculation could still apply under a newly passed “no-net-loss” law, which requires developers to replant every tree knocked down or pay a $10 per square foot fee in lieu of replanting. A September 2018 memo from planning and zoning director Pete Gutwald indicates the law would remove any credit for trees retained and require the Providence Point developer specifically to replace almost 40 acres.
Bradshaw said the Providence Point application is based on National Lutheran’s interpretation of the law, but the developer will amend the application if the city finds differently.
The entrance fees are steep, but National Lutheran engages in benevolent care
Before the community opens, the Maryland Department of Aging will have to approve it. But National Lutheran has provided an example of traditional entrance fees to the department, ranging from about $325,056 for a one-bedroom, 1 ½-bath apartment to $632,000 for a large two-bedroom, two-bath cottage. Fifty and 90 percent refundable fees range from about $650,113 to $1.2 million. Monthly fees range from about $3,136 to $4,040.
National Lutheran engages in $5 million of benevolent care a year, Bradshaw said, whereby the nonprofit continues to house a resident even if they can no longer pay the monthly fee. At The Village at Rockville, the nonprofit is required to accept Medicare for 41.5 percent of patients.
Some Annapolis residents have criticized the project for it’s large entrance fees. But Bradshaw said they hope to be an asset to the larger Annapolis community, hosting speaker’s series, concerts and educational events.