Mayor has the power to stop Parkside Preserve mega-development

Environmental and community leaders from around the Annapolis Neck submitted the following letter to Mayor Pantelides, asking him to take action to stop the Parkside Preserve development project in the City. He alone can order his Director to revoke their approval to clear the priority forests, and to declare their Planned Development application to be expired. This would send the project back to the Planning Commission where it will finally have a proper public review. As of now, the public has been denied a voice. Quiet Waters park and our communities are at risk because of that. This forest and its wetlands serve as the headwaters for Harness Creek and flows into Quiet Waters Park. It needs to be protected, and should be protected under the law.

Here is the letter (find out what you can do here and also sign a petition):

                                                                                       Dear Mayor Pantelides,

 

We, the undersigned, are asking that you work with your Planning & Zoning director to revoke the approved Forest Conservation Plan (FCP) for the Parkside Preserve project using Natural Resources code § 5-1612[i], and to declare the associated planned development approval to be expired[ii]. After a hearing[iii], this would send the project back to the Planning Commission for proper public and commission consideration, to review a complete and accurate FCP. We ask you to do so for the following reasons:

  1. The City, under a past administration, has denied the public any right to comment on the impacts this proposed project may have on our communities and Quiet Waters park. When the public tried to testify on the complete application at the Board of Appeals, they were told they could not comment on the proposed forest destruction, when both City staff and the developer were permitted to do so. The Planning Commission hearing was insufficient, as the developer’s application was incomplete and lacked the required justification for clearing the priority forests[iv]. These potential impacts are significant and we deserve an ability to comment on any threats to our community.
  2. The developer’s consultant obtained plan approval from the City by misrepresentation. They deliberately altered their assessment of the property from report to report, despite their scientific survey data not changing, to more easily gain approval to clear the priority retention forests[v]. “Obtaining a plan approval by misrepresentation” is an act that triggers the obligation for you to revoke the approval.
  3. It has been over 5 years since DNEP and the Planning Commission first recommended approval of the FCP. The forest has changed since that time and a new review is needed. Such a “change in conditions” allows the City to invoke the revocation clause of the FCA.
  4. This development proposal contradicts the Annapolis Comprehensive Plan by proposing to impact headwater wetlands and clear priority forests. The Comprehensive Plan states that a guiding environmental policy is to “protect and restore environmentally sensitive areas and other natural resources within the City.”
  5. You have repeatedly promised community members that you would protect the priority forest on this property[vi].

The revocation clause in the Natural Resources code § 5-1612[vii] clearly states that the ability to revoke an approved FCP is within your authority, through your appointed P&Z Director: “…a local authority may revoke an approved forest conservation plan…” Similarly, City Code 21.24.110.A obliges the City to expire Planned Development approval after the period of two years[viii] if no permits have been received. We ask that you order your appointee to take such revocation and expiration actions to protect our voice, protect our communities, and to protect our park.

Respectfully submitted by the undersigned,

Scott Mobley, president  Annapolis Neck Peninsula Federation

Anastasia Hopkinson, VP of the Annapolis Neck Peninsula Federation

Mary Mulvihill, adjacent resident

Brian Toomey, Virginia Ryker, Philip Reynolds, Lee N. McMichael, Catherine L. McMichael, Hunt Meadow residents

Ellen Moyer, Mayor, 2001-2009

Jim Urban, former Planning Commission member, Landscape Architect

Suzanne Pogel, former Chair, Annapolis Environmental Commission

Kurt Riegel, former Chair, Annapolis Environmental Commission

Earl Bradley, Anne Arundel Sierra Club president

Friends of Quiet Waters Park 

Jesse Illif, South River Federation Riverkeeper

Fred Kelly, Severn Riverkeeper

Zachary Moore, president, the Beechwood Hill Homeowners Association

David Barker, president, Beechwood Hill Homeowners Association (2012-2015)

Dave Gillum, Anne Arundel Bird Club

Ray Sullivan, Save Your Annapolis Neck

Ross Geredien & Forrest Mays, Co-founders, Friends of Crystal Spring Forest

Rick Kissel, local environmental activist

Rob Savidge

Elvia Thompson

Marcia Verploegen Lewis

Beth Garraway

Marc Rodriguez

Jessica Pachler

Angela Carpita

Rosemary Smith

[i] MD Natural Resources Code, Title 5.Forest Conservation, Section 1612. Enforcement, (b) Violation. — The Department [DNR] or a local authority [City] may revoke an approved forest conservation plan for cause, including violation of conditions of the plan, obtaining a plan approval by misrepresentation, failing to disclose a relevant or material fact, or change in conditions. The Department or a local authority shall notify the violator in writing and provide an opportunity for a hearing.

[ii] City Code 21.24.110.A Expiration – 2. A final planned development approval shall expire two years from the date final approval if a building permit is not obtained prior to that date. If substantial site development has not commenced within a period of three years from the date of final approval, or in the case of larger developments, for each phase of the project indicated on the planned development plan, the planned development approval shall expire.

[iii] The Revocation clause cited above from MD Natural Resources 5-1612 says the City “shall notify the violator in writing and provide an opportunity for a hearing.” We believe this hearing should go to the Zoning Board of Appeals. If the Mayor’s director invokes the revocation clause, it is considered an administrative decision, which is challengeable under City Code 21.30.10 to the Zoning Board of Appeals. The hearing should not be before the Building Board of Appeals because this is an administrative decision made by the P&Z director and not an FCA approval, which would otherwise go to the Building Board of Appeals.

[iv] While the public was allowed to comment at the Planning Commission hearing, the developer’s application was incomplete and did not include information about the priority forests or the required justification for clearing those forests. We want to be able to comment on the complete application. Furthermore, we believe the Planning Commission deserves the right to comment on the complete application.

[v] The developer’s environmental consultant, Klebasko Environmental Inc altered their analysis and mapping between the first and second FSD, and between the Planning Commission and Board of Appeals hearings, not because their data changed (it remained the same throughout), but because they were told that the City would be enforcing the State’s Priority Retention Forest provision. Once Klebasko Inc found that out, they altered their conclusions, increased their emphasis on an area of the forest that had some large canopy tree die-off, and doubled the mapped size of the disturbed -but still healthy – priority forest. In their first FSD (dated 7/30/10), Klebasko Environmental Inc said that “[stand 1] contains significant environmental features (i.e. nontidal wetlands, 25-foot wetland buffers), [and] it should be classified as a Priority 1 Save Area.” The second and third FSDs (third one dated 4/4/12) altered this stand description to say that “[stand 1 has a] general lack of significant environmental features, [furthermore] this stand would typically be classified as a Priority 2 Save Area but for the fact that it is contiguous with Quiet Waters Park.” Canopy tree die-off is a natural process that promotes healthy forest regeneration. Furthermore, this die-off only resulted in a 20% reduction in the tree canopy according to Klebasko Inc’s own data, which hardly shows a severely degraded forest that warrants clearing.  These are serious misrepresentations that influenced DNEP’s approval. Yet because DNEP staff had already reviewed and recommended the FSD and FCP for approval, and because DNEP had told staff to not communicate with the Mayor, his administration, the Annapolis Environmental Commission, or the public, this was never brought to full light.

[vi] In early April 2014 and May of 2015, Mayor Pantelides met with representatives from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Chesapeake Legal Alliance, South River Federation, Annapolis Environmental Commission, and other residents during your open office hours, and promised not to allow the destruction of the priority forest on this property because of the ecological damage it would cause, and because of the impact it would have on nearby communities.

[vii] MD Natural Resources Code, Title 5.Forest Conservation, Section 1612. Enforcement, (b) Violation – The Department [DNR] or a local authority [City] may revoke an approved forest conservation plan for cause, including violation of conditions of the plan, obtaining a plan approval by misrepresentation, failing to disclose a relevant or material fact, or change in conditions. The Department or a local authority shall notify the violator in writing and provide an opportunity for a hearing.

[viii] The Circuit Court overturned the Board of Appeals’ rejection of this project’s application, and approved the project on September 9th, 2013. The subsequent appeal to the Special Court of Appeals did not stay the approval – the approval became final with the Circuit Court’s decision. In fact, the Circuit Court’s decision/approval, said that “[the] petitioner’s second issue on appeal is moot because the Court finds the vote by the Board was not a denial of the application.” This means the final approval date was in 2013, and that the two year expiration has been triggered.

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