For the last several months, we have had productive discussions with the developers of The Village at Providence Point senior development proposed for the Crystal Spring property. We have come a long way toward a resolution of our four major objections (extinguishing all future development on remaining undeveloped land; stormwater; forest clearing/reforestation; and traffic), but we are not there yet. We asked the developers, National Lutheran Communities and Services (NLCS) to hold off on filing with the city until these concerns were worked out, but they submitted updated plans on Monday, May 4. They have left us no choice but to oppose the new plans until our issues can be resolved.
Chief among these unresolved issues is the conservation easement and our unwavering mandate that all undeveloped land be protected from development on the 175 acre site in perpetuity with certain minor exceptions. The developer and city planners had advised us and the general public that approval of the planned senior community would terminate any possibilities for further development on the property.
The Village at Providence Point would have no public retail or commercial development and would be limited to a senior living facility. There would be 303 housing units and 48 health care suites, a chapel and recreation facility, plus the roads to support them. The project would be built in two phases over a period of years on a 36.21 acre footprint. It would take down 28 acres of forest, which would all be replanted on the 175 acre site. Other than this development, the remaining land held by the current owner would be subject to a conservation easement and be restricted from new structures except for some relatively minor permissible equestrian related structures such as barns and stables and a new Wellness House. The easement would allow no more than 45,000 sq. ft. of new structures and forbid tree clearing.
We had thought we were in agreement on all of this and were working toward a conservation easement that included these provisions. However, the new plans filed Monday include a clause that would allow NLCS to expand the senior living facilities after 20 years if there was a “demonstrated community need.” The only limitation on this additional development is they would not be allowed to clear any trees, but otherwise, they have a free pass to put additional units or buildings on the property. NLCS had not raised this until recently, and we have insisted this is unacceptable. They are contending that they need some flexibility due to the ever-changing nature of senior living and the laws surrounding it, and we have suggested a compromise that would allow these changes while strictly limiting the growth of the senior community. So far, they have rejected this compromise.
The conservation easement filed also allows picnic pavilions to be erected on easement land for the 500 residents of the project and their guests with no limits on numbers and size. This was never brought up before their filing. The terms of the conservation easement are the biggest problem confronting us over the new plans. We cannot agree to withdraw our objectionsunless the terms of the easement are clear in preventing future development on the 175 acres, other than the limited exceptions noted.
The stormwater plans filed are excellent and will meet our goal of retaining or treating 100% of all stormwater generated by the development so as not to increase rate, volume, or pollutant loads from a 25 year storm event. The plans feature 89 discrete stormwater bio-retention cells around the buildings and roads to allow stormwater to settle and percolate into groundwater after being filtered by soil and gravel and the excess flow naturally across land.
The one snag involves the restoration of a polluted stream channel as part of the stormwater management measures. The new plans show the developer wants to reduce the stream channel restoration for a very polluted stormwater runoff system that runs under Spa Road across from the Annapolis Middle School and drains 43 acres. This is a major pollution source for Crab Creek. Their original plans they shared with us months ago showed 700 linear feet of restoration planned as necessary, but they reduced this to 520 feet, and we objected. Subsequently, we were surprised at their filings reducing the restoration once again to 502 feet. They contend they will leave it up to the city whether it is 502 or 700 feet. We are insisting on the full 700 feet of restoration originally proposed unless regulators lessen it.
Despite these setbacks, we have made great progress in our discussions over the last few months on overall stormwater management, forest conservation, and traffic:
We have resolved the forest conservation issue. The developer will adhere fully to the city’s no net loss ordinance and reforest on-site 25 of the 28 acres to be cleared and plant 3 acres of street trees. Under the law, this means all 87.5 acres of remaining forest plus the 28 acres being replanted will be preserved in perpetuity. So, after replanting, the 115.5 acre of forest that currently exists on the 175 acre site will exist in the future and be protected in perpetuity.
NLCS has agreed to make significant road and intersection improvements that should alleviate traffic concerns. These include the long-planned connector road from the development to Skippers Lane behind the CVS. NLCS has agreed to pay six figures towards the cost of the right of way acquisition to run this 560-foot road. The city would acquire the right of way and pay all costs for the design and construction of the road. This would allow residents and workers at the senior project to access retail outlets including the drug store and Safeway without going onto Spa Road or Forest Drive. All local residents would also be permitted to use this connector.
Other traffic improvements to be paid for by NLCS include converting the intersection of Forest Drive at Crystal Spring Farm Road to a right-in only, right-out only intersection; adding another northbound left turn lane from Spa Road to Forest Drive; adding deceleration lanes; and changing the southbound lane at the intersection of Forest Drive at South Cherry Grove Avenue. NLCS also would coordinate the arrival and departure of workers at their project with the Annapolis Middle School arrivals and departures.
We do appreciate NLCS CEO Larry Bradshaw and his team’s willingness to work with us towards the satisfactory resolution of our major objections, but collaboration is still needed for a resolution of the differences mentioned above. We have advised the city and NLCS that we must OPPOSE the project until these issues are resolved, and Mayor Buckley has assured us that the city will not approve the plans unless our concerns have been met.
We will continue to work collegially with NLCS through the city review process in the hope that our remaining disagreements can be overcome, but we must OPPOSE the project until that happens.