Increasingly, constituents have been asking me for my thoughts on the proposed Crystal Spring development in the City of Annapolis. Crystal Spring Farm is on Forest Drive, between Hilltop Road and Spa Road (see it on Google Map). While the development is within the City, and thus under their jurisdiction, I do think it is appropriate to share my thoughts as your County Councilmember. The current concept plan (found here) proposes a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), a retail shopping center, an inn and spa, and over 100 non-age restricted townhomes.
The simplest question is whether or not I support the current concept plan. The answer is no. In general, I think the scope of the current concept plan is too big and I question its consistency with the City’s Comprehensive Plan, which can be found here (see page 29 for detail on the Forest Drive Opportunity Area).
Specifically, one of my chief concerns is the traffic impact of such a large development on the already congested Forest Drive corridor. I understand a traffic study has been conducted, but the results have not been made public, and I urge the City and the developer to make it available as soon as possible. Just about anyone with a 21403 ZIP code uses Forest Drive, and its hard to imagine squeezing any more vehicles onto it without seriously affecting functionality.
I am also concerned about further overcrowding the local school system, which is already over capacity. According to the most recent Anne Arundel School Utilization Chart (see it here – look at Appendix A), the three nearest elementary schools to the project – Hillsmere, Mills-Parole, and Tyler Heights – are all “closed” which means they are at or over capacity. The City is not bound by the County’s “adequate public facilities” ordinance, but should consider this nonetheless.
Finally, I am concerned about the impact on our natural environment. Any new development will have to meet today’s strict stormwater management regulations and preserve sensitive areas such as wetlands. But large tracts of continuous forest, such as the one on Crystal Spring, are rare, and we should take extra measures to protect them. Any and all viable options to preserve this area should be pursued.
I do believe that it is possible to design and build a development that would be consistent with the mixed-use concept called for in the Comprehensive Plan, and minimize community and environmental impacts. However, we absolutely must strive to preserve the unique sense of place we have in Annapolis, and ensure that any growth is responsible and sustainable.
The Annapolis Planning Commission will ultimately approve, disapprove, or require modifications to the developers’ plan. I encourage them to take the concerns of the community – both City and County residents – into consideration when they decide the fate of this project.
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