We at Concerned Citizens for Proper Land Use/Stop Crystal Spring, including nearly all of the local area’s top environmentalists, have succeeded in blocking any development of the 176 acre site for more than a decade. This occurred only after spending countless hours and raising funds to fight the massive development first proposed. Most recently, working with the City and National Lutheran, we successfully perfected a plan that meets all of our concerns including our four major objections on traffic, stormwater, forest conservation, and future development. National Lutheran will own and operate the senior-only living facility at the site known as The Village at Providence Point.
Despite a major downsizing of the development at Crystal Spring, the elimination of all retail and non-senior housing, and clustering the development closest to Forest Drive, and making the project a model for future projects—all to meet our demands—a small group of opponents have sued the City to block the project.
Claims by opponents were not supported by the evidence presented at five public hearings of more than 15 total hours where opponents and supporters presented their views before the Annapolis Planning Commission. The Commission is vested by law with reviewing and approving major development plans and consists of seven independent Annapolis City residents. The Commission unanimously approved the project with 55 conditions, all of which we fully supported.
The few opponents raised traffic and environmental issues, none of which were substantiated by qualified professionals or experts. Resolution of all of these issues were painstakingly resolved in our negotiations with the City and National Lutheran. The terms were agreed upon by our leadership team and nearly all environmental leaders in this area. Please click here to read our statement to the Planning Commission, which also includes the list of local leaders in support of this action.
As an example of the unsupported contentions of those suing, they contend traffic problems will be made much worse. However, our traffic expert living off of Harness Creek Road and a professional traffic consultant hired at the insistence of the City both found that the extensive traffic improvements planned would minimize—and may improve—traffic flows. Only 19 peak a.m. trips and 33 peak p.m. trips would be generated. Any increase in traffic would be mitigated by a new left-turn lane on Spa Road at Forest Drive, traffic light synchronization, and a long-planned connector road from the property paralleling Forest Drive to connect Spa Road to Skipper Lane near the CVS, reducing Forest Drive/Spa Road traffic.
And, there will be a walking/biking trail around the entire perimeter of the project and also along the connector road all the way from the Safeway to Spa Road allowing pedestrian and bicyclers to access the area without vehicles.
Opponents also claim, without any engineering or other expert analysis supporting their allegations, that the water quality of Crab Creek will be worsened from stormwater leaving the site. We hired one of the best stormwater engineering experts in the country who thoroughly reviewed the project, worked with National Lutheran and the City stormwater engineers over several years, and helped develop a model stormwater management plan that assures our goal was met of no increase in rate, volume or pollutant loads to Crab Creek from stormwater.
Our stormwater expert confirmed this and concluded that “Stormwater will not exceed that from a forest in good condition….I can unequivocally state that compared with other potential development scenarios for 36 or more acres of this parcel, anyone concerned with the water quality of Crab Creek should be elated with the current environmental site design plan for development.”
The development will be limited to 15.25 acres of impervious surface, never to be exceeded. There will be 79 rain gardens (1.2 acres in total), green roofs, and remediation of a highly polluting stream channel running under Spa Road onto Mas Que Farm. This channel drains 43 acres, including Annapolis Middle School, directly into Crab Creek. National Lutheran will pay the $500,000 to remediate the stream channel. Also, 364 of the 475 parking spaces will be placed underground or under buildings and most driveways will be of porous paving. .
The stormwater plans approved by the City consisted of 209 pages plus major engineering sketches. The Crab Creek Conservancy, formed a little more than a year ago, is the only group opposing the project and appears to have as its sole goal stopping any development at the 176 acres of Crystal Spring. This group is suing to stop the plans supposedly over its concerns over water quality. But as noted above, Crab Creek water quality will not be adversely affected and actually may improve with the extensive stormwater management plans we have gained.
Another of our major goals that was met involves forest conservation. We succeeded in reducing clearing leaving 97 acres of forest untouched. All forest cleared will be replaced on site with native trees—that’s 100% replacement. Remarkably, the 124 existing acres of forest on the property now will remain forested and be protected in perpetuity, including the reforested acreage. This is assured under strict conservation easements. An additional 216 landscaping trees will add another four acres of tree canopy. A 200-foot forested buffer along Forest Drive will be established. Since the site could not be developed without tree clearing, these forest conservation measures are a remarkable accomplishment.
And yet those suing seek to reverse these traffic, stormwater, and forest conservation measures we worked for many years to accomplish. Worse yet, should they succeed, they would leave these valuable 176 acres open to a much worse fate in the future. The site is zoned for development and is not going to sit undeveloped. And, under the plan we forged, the owners of the 176 acres have agreed to extinguish all future development rights beyond the senior living facility.
This extinguishment of development rights is guaranteed under a strict conservation easement we negotiated to assure there will be no further development on the 123 acres to be retained by the owner. This is the land on and around the equestrian center. Only a new cancer patient wellness house and limited equestrian-related barns and stables could ever be built in the future. The conservation easement would be held and enforced by the Scenic Rivers Land Trust. And, National Lutheran will execute stringent deed restrictions we negotiated to eliminate all future development on their 53 acres where the senior living project will be built.
We even succeeded in gaining a unique compliance and inspection agreement for stormwater and sediment control and forest protection during and after construction. We will have direct access to the construction manager and periodic meetings with the manager. An independent inspector will monitor the construction site to assure 100% compliance. After the senior project is open, similar access and meetings are assured with the senior living center’s manager.
All of these measures are required under the Planning Commission’s approval and its 55 conditions. Our entire leadership team firmly believes we could have no better outcome for the 176 acres of Crystal Spring and Mas Que Farm especially given the lack of support for a prohibitively expensive public acquisition with landowners who do not wish to sell for such purposes.
After more than a decade, we finally were able to craft this superlative set of restrictions that protect the environment and quality of life of the citizens of this area. This enabled us to withdraw objections to the plans as all our demands were met. We will do all in our power to assure that the terms we agreed upon are upheld in the courts to guarantee all our major goals are met.