As 2019 comes to an end, we wanted to update you on our fight to protect the forests, wetlands, and fields of Crystal Spring. Thanks to you, the land at Crystal Spring remains untouched. Not one tree has been cut. Nor has any more traffic been added to Forest Drive/Spa Road from this project. This would not have been possible without your support.
2020 will mark 10 years since the first development plan was filed for this property. While the proposal has been downsized since that time due to our advocacy, developers are still no closer to getting approval. Nonetheless, National Lutheran Communities and Services (NLCS) continues to pursue their plans to build their senior community called The Village at Providence Point. They are planning to clear 30 acres of Priority Forest to build 303 senior apartments and homes and 48 assisted living units on a 35-acre footprint (see image below). The most recent formal filing was in January 2019. Almost a year later, they are still working with city planners to make major adjustments before they can refile.
We have been hearing from many folks who are concerned after receiving promotional mailings from the developer soliciting “priority” deposits from seniors. We are repeatedly asked how the developer can begin marketing and collecting payments from seniors if the planned development is nowhere near approval by the city. After receiving approval from the Department of Aging for their feasibility study, the developer could begin collecting $1,000 deposits. Our appeal of the Department’s decision was dismissed on a standing basis even though we had submitted substantial evidence that the approval was legally deficient and not based on current plans. We continue to urge the Department Secretary to suspend her approval of the feasibility study pending final approval of the project by the city. The developers are collecting deposits for units that may never be built. The decision by the Department of Aging to allow the developers to proceed holding free lunches to convince seniors to put $1,000 down does a disservice to those Marylanders the agency is statutorily supposed to protect. It’s also worth mentioning that some of these units will cost as much as $1.4 million for two people with a monthly fee of $5,600—and this doesn’t include health care.
We and city planners have prodded the developers to meet or exceed all environmental laws and resolve traffic problems from the development, yet their plans failed to meet even the minimum requirements of the city and state Forest Conservation Acts and Stormwater Laws. The January filings were so far off from meeting current basic requirements, it took Planning and Zoning until June to complete just one aspect of its review. It was confined exclusively to the environmental problems with five pages of single-spaced comments requiring major changes to the development proposal.
In addition, the city is still working with the developers on other issues such as sewer hook-up and whether a new pumping station is needed, as well as some design aNd architectural concerns. NLCS will not be filing a new plan until sometime next year.
Not only did NLCS fail to meet city and state laws with their January filing; they completely disregarded the concerns of residents. We had two face-to-face meetings in summer 2018 with the developers and city planners where we presented them with four major issues that remained unresolved. Here is an update on those issues today:
Forest Clearing and Replanting:
After months of negotiations with the developers, we were astonished when the January plans proposed clearing 30 acres of forest while replanting NONE. Our position is unflagging that forest loss must be reduced and 100% of forest cleared must be replanted on site. The No Net Loss of Forest ordinance we pushed to passage requires developers to minimize forest clearing and replace trees cleared on an acre-for-acre basis. City planners have forced the developers to agree to replant all forest destroyed on or next to the site while executing easements that protect all remaining forest in perpetuity. NLCS must also reduce forest clearing.
Stormwater runoff from development is the #1 pollution source impairing water quality in Crab Creek and the South River. The developer’s pledge must be met to eliminate any increase in rate, volume, or pollutant loads from stormwater flows. This should be done for at least a 20-year storm event which is becoming much more common. The January filings did not meet basic city and state stormwater laws. The City is pushing the use of green roofs, reduced forest clearing and impervious surfaces with better design, and remediating a degraded stormwater channel running under Spa Road through the site.
We are insisting that if the Providence Point senior community project is ever approved, all other future development on the site is extinguished. A binding legal document must be agreed upon ensuring the land and forest will be protected in perpetuity. We have developed a draft conservation easement to accomplish this, which would be held by the Scenic Rivers Land Trust. The developers and owner have already committed that there will be no future development on the remaining property except for a new Wellness House and some relatively minor permissible improvements related to the equestrian center. The city has directed the developer to delineate the required 75-acre conservation easement and the proposed forest conservation easement to protect remaining forest.
The planned improvements to the failing intersections at Forest Dr./Spa Rd. and Forest Dr./Crystal Spring Farm Rd. are solid but must include a commitment for the construction of a long-planned parallel road connecting the development with Skipper Lane behind the CVS. This would give senior residents direct access to the shopping center, eliminating the need to use Forest Drive and Spa Road for these trips. We have been unwavering in our position that the developers must include this road in their plans and make “an equitable contribution” to its costs as required in the Annexation Agreement. The relief road is also included in the Annapolis Comprehensive Plan. New data from Anne Arundel County shows that five Forest Drive intersections are among the top ten crash hot spots in the county. This information comes as the city is processing plans for dozens of developments along this corridor that would add thousands of new homes. The map below documents the nearly 1,200 new housing units and over 256,000 square feet of commercial and retail space planned for or already under construction in this sector.
One would think that after years of multiple plans failing to meet city requirements, the developers would want to finally get it right, especially if they were listening to the city’s and our concerns. But this is not so. Thus, the battle must continue—indefinitely.
We need your support as we continue to fight for these critical issues. We are hard at work on your behalf each day to achieve our goals, but these efforts come at a great financial cost. We rely on donations to our Crystal Spring Legal Defense Fund for all costs associated with fighting this development. These costs include paying our land use attorney, our communications director, and our web development firm. We have also retained one of the best stormwater experts in Maryland.
So please, as 2019 comes to a close, will you help us succeed by making a fully tax-deductible donation today? We would like to thank those who have already sent in donations. I assure you that 100% of your contribution will be used in our efforts to protect our natural heritage and quality of life in Annapolis.
Together, we are succeeding! Thank you for your support and have a safe and happy New Year!