Annapolis Struggles to Balance Growth With Traffic, Quality of Life Issues

A Capital Gazette article (2017-05-07) highlighted the ongoing challenges a developed area faces as it continues to plan and grow. The article focused on the city of Annapolis, and the struggle the municipality faces as it seeks to balance its existing quality of life against the need for further growth and development. According to the article, Annapolis is facing significant residential growth:

Based on the city’s most recent report, there are 689 proposed residential units in the development pipeline and city officials expect more growth as developers feel more confidence in the economy.

That number — listed in the April monthly report — doesn’t include retirement communities, which could bring another influx of 529 age-restricted units for retiring seniors or those that need health care. Those projects are listed on the report, but their unit counts aren’t listed as they are not traditional residential properties. That number also doesn’t include new developments near Annapolis, such as the 293-unit apartment complex behind the Double T Diner.

The article described the strains large developments can place on traffic and services while at the same time providing new tax revenue and a shield against rising property taxes. The article discussed the city’s recent push for requiring impact studies that take into account other approved developments, as well as the need for a comprehensive look at development:

This prevents developments from building in a vacuum, [Annapolis Chief of Comprehensive Planning Sally] Nash said. As for the comprehensive plan, it’s Nash’s job to ensure it is met when approving developments.

That can be a challenge when the comprehensive plan has conflicting goals, such as pushing for the city to have 50 percent tree canopy while also targeting areas, some of which have forested acres, as places for potential growth.

“It’s a balance,” Nash said. …

Some of the struggles with the slew of development is in large part due to older projects that have been moving through the development pipeline, said Mayor Mike Pantelides.

These new developments show that Annapolis is a desirable place to be, but there needs to be consideration on the size of the incoming projects, like Parkeside Preserve, which are too big, said Pantelides. …

“I’m certainly not happy with the way things are going,” Pantelides said. “These large, massive ones, at the end of the day it doesn’t benefit the residents of Annapolis.”

A greater focus needs to be placed on the potential for growth as well as projects that have already applied, said Alderman Ross Arnett, D-Ward 8. …

“One of the problems is that when planning looks at things, they only take on what has been applied for,” Arnett said. “They don’t take a comprehensive approach to looking at traffic.”

The article also discussed the City’s beginning of its Forest Drive Sector Study, which will take a long-term development approach to setting zoning around Forest Drive, Bay Ridge Road, Aris T. Allen Boulevard, and Eastport.