A long-planned and often fought-over proposal for an Annapolis retirement community along Forest Drive could finally be on its way to approval.
Developers submitted plans offering compromises on four key areas of concerns raised by an opposition group, including traffic, forest conservation, stormwater management and future development.ADVERTISING
On Thursday, National Lutheran Communities and Services submitted plans to the city’s Department of Planning and Zoning for The Village of Providence Point, a 350-unit long-term care facility that would be built on part of a heavily forested 175-acre tract at the confluence of Forest Drive and Spa Road.
For more than a decade, the organization, which runs several other retirement facilities in the region, has sought to build a facility there. But it has run into significant opposition from a group, Stop Crystal Spring — a reference to a former name of the development — who have fought for the project to shrink significantly in size and scope and to comply with other environmental and traffic requirements.
The submission follows more than a year of negotiations between National Lutheran’s CEO and President Larry Bradshaw, and Gerald Winegrad, the leader of Stop Crystal Spring, along with help from Annapolis officials.
“My confidence is high,” Bradshaw said in an interview Monday. “It’s taken a long time to get here but it’s really a model of how the city, developers and community advocates can work well together. And I hope at the end of the day we can all see that the fruits of that will come to benefit the seniors in Annapolis.”
On June 28, Bradshaw sent a detailed eight-page letter outlining the compromises hammered out between him and Winegrad since last year. In exchange, Winegrad’s group would agree to withdraw opposition to the project.
After an initial review of the resubmission it “appears to fulfill” promises made by Bradshaw and National Lutheran, Winegrad said.
The group would withdraw its opposition once they thoroughly review the plans, he said, down to the computations done for stormwater management and forest conservation.
“Larry Bradshaw and I have been working assiduously for over a year of trying to get this thing right,” said Winegrad, a former Maryland state senator who writes an environmental column for The Capital. “I can say unequivocally that we’ve come a long way, that National Lutheran has worked very closely with us, that the mayor and the city have been a big help.”
Bradshaw has recently announced he is stepping down as CEO on Aug. 1. He will stay on as an adviser to help guide the Providence Point project through the approval process, he said.
If it is approved by Planning and Zoning, the Annapolis Planning Commission will then deliberate on the project.
Winegrad’s group has pushed for substantial compromises on traffic flow in and out of the development to ensure congestion does not worsen on Forest Drive when the project is completed.
To that end, National Lutheran has proposed major improvements where Crystal Spring Farm Road and Cherry Grove Avenue intersect with Forest Drive, such as additional turn lanes, widening certain areas and a deceleration lane on Spa Road.
A long-discussed connector road through the community that links Skipper Lane to Spa Road is also part of the plans. The road is expected to pull traffic off of Forest Drive and provide direct access for residents to grocery stores, restaurants and other businesses. National Lutheran has committed six figures for the construction of the road, which would be designed and built by the city, according to the proposal.
Developers have also promised to coordinate with officials from Annapolis Middle School during construction to avoid traffic conflicts.
The traffic proposals “are good compromises” that are “beneficial to the community and the traffic situation,” said Greg Walker, a member of Stop Crystal Spring who has expertise in traffic planning.
“It’s like any compromise, neither side is 100% happy,” Walker said.
No future development
A key sticking point to negotiations over the last year was a commitment by developers to not include additional development in the future.
The compromise now includes a conservation easement that would prohibit any future development rights on the 123 acres south of the facility. A separate agreement would limit development on the rest of the property to those structures proposed in the current agreement aside from a handful of exceptions. These include a new wellness house; barns, stables, and other equestrian-related structures at Mas Que Farm and for small picnic pavilions and trails.
Since an initial proposal was made in 2010 that featured more than 400 housing units, a sprawling shopping center, retail space and a hotel, subsequent proposals have shrunk significantly over the ensuing decade, in part because of pushback from Stop Crystal Spring.
Now, all 350 of the proposed housing units will be age-restricted and located on a 30-acre footprint. Outside of a few on-site amenities for residents and visitors, there won’t be any retail space.
The project is expected to create about 200 full-time jobs during construction, with about $25 million in salaries and wages, according to a National Lutheran fact sheet. Another 200 full-time and part-time jobs will be created once the development is completed.
Forest conservation and stormwater management
The developers plan to clear about 27 acres of trees for the retirement community and have promised to replace most of those trees through one-to-one reforestation and the rest through planting street trees. The plan would meet the city’s no-net-loss tree requirements as required by City Code.
The entire 175-acre property currently has 124 acres of forest, all of which would be permanently preserved under the revised plans. Developers have promised trees that are six inches or less in diameter or are specimen trees would be considered for transplanting or retained, respectively, according to the plans.
The plans are also expected to exceed the city’s stormwater management rules, which call for 125% of stormwater to be managed and treated beyond minimum requirements.
To meet that goal, the developers have proposed installing about 80 bioretention cells, 62,000 square feet of green roofs and around 15,300 square feet of porous pavement driveways. They have also promised to restore 500 feet of a degraded stream channel that drains from nearby Annapolis Middle School.
Altogether, the environmental design features could control a 25-year storm event.