Capital Op-Ed: “Providence Point is in for an unnecessary fight”

Capital Gazette: Opinion, March 5, 2019

By: John Frece

It is hard to overstate how disappointed and betrayed those of us who have worked to improve the proposed Providence Point development feel after the developers’ uncaring refusal to make any of the important changes we suggested.

We foolishly thought they were operating in good faith, only to see a submission to the city that ignores everything we discussed.

To be treated this way is not only rude but insensitive to the environmental and transportation concerns of every resident who lives or travels along Forest Drive. The developers who made these decisions do not live here — but we do, and now they’re unnecessarily in for a fight.

With City Planning and Zoning officials presiding, developers held work sessions with our Citizens for Proper Land Use group in July and September. After hours of discussion, we listed four areas of critical concern:

  • Reduce clearing of the old growth forest and replant 100 percent of trees cut.
  • Manage stormwater flowing from the site for a 20-year storm event so there would be no increase in the pollutant load into nearby waterways.
  • Submit a comprehensive conservation easement essentially extinguishing almost all development rights outside the Providence Point footprint.
  • Make traffic improvements that would improve — or at least not worsen — already overcrowded Forest Drive and Spa Road and connect the development to the Safeway and other businesses to the west.

We repeatedly emphasized the importance of addressing these issues with the developers, their attorney and the city. We had every reason to believe they would attempt to meet our concerns because all of the above items were either pledged by the developers in the past or were required by law or the annexation agreement. These concerns were again expressed at the developer’s required public meeting on Jan. 3.

We were shocked to see the plans filed Jan. 22 were almost identical to what we were shown in July and that none of our concerns were addressed.

The Forest Conservation Plan filed was insulting as it showed unbelievably zero replanting for the 30 acres of forest to be destroyed! This despite the enactment in November of the City’s no net loss of forest ordinance requiring 100 percent reforestation. This abject abdication of the developer’s pledges and our good faith negotiations on forest restoration demonstrated the bad faith of the developers and why citizens will continue to fight this development.

The plans call for 351 new units with a development footprint of 35 acres, destroying 30 acres of priority forest — forest that is supposed to be protected and preserved.

This destruction could easily be reduced if the developers simply made their main apartment building six stories instead of four. By leaving more forest, there also would be less polluted stormwater.

The plans call for managing stormwater runoff for a 2-inch storm event, which is nothing more than what is required by law, may not meet new City standards, and ignores reality. There were 14 storms in Annapolis of greater than 2-inches last year alone.

The Capital article on this plan notes the increased traffic flows from the development, but only at rush hour. The city-ordered traffic study also projects 1,582 additional daily vehicle trips from the 500 new residents of the development and 200 service staff.

Additionally, 18 other planned city developments affecting Forest Drive will produce more than a thousand additional rush hour trips daily on the only major thoroughfare on the peninsula.

Importantly, the filings failed to include the required conservation easement for the site, which all agree must prohibit any other major development outside of Providence Point in order to protect the remaining forest.

With our concerns ignored, we have no other choice but to vigorously oppose this plan.

John W. Frece of Annapolis directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s smart growth program for five years before retiring in 2014. He was State House bureau chief for The Baltimore Sun and UPI for 17 years.

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