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Annapolis Delays Crystal Spring Review Until Pantelides Sworn In

Elisha Sauers           esauers@capgaznews.com

Mayor Josh Cohen has requested Annapolis officials halt all reviews of a large development proposed for land in the Forest Drive corridor.

Cohen said Wednesday that staff has been instructed to hold off until Mayor-elect Mike Pantelides takes office and has had a chance to appoint personnel to his administration.

“Crystal Spring was one of the major campaign issues, and I believe the new mayor and administration should be able to have a blank canvas to review it and process the application as they see fit,” Cohen said.

Pantelides, a Republican, will be sworn in on Dec. 2. Pantelides did not immediately return a call for comment Wednesday evening.

During his campaign, Pantelides promised he would “favor the environment over developer interests at Crystal Spring and City Dock.”

Crystal Spring is a mixed-use commercial project with a continuing care retirement community as its anchor, slated for 111 acres near the intersection of Forest Drive and Spa Road. The site would be accessed by Mas Que Farm Road and is close to Crab Creek.

The city’s consideration of the project is in a preliminary phase. Staff have been reviewing how the project would affect streams, forests and wetlands.

Cohen said City Manager Mike Mallinoff spoke with the developers Tuesday, asking them to delay submitting any additional materials for review until the incoming administration is in place.

The next submission anticipated is a Forest Conservation Plan, which would show where buildings would be placed on the property with respect to the natural resources. The staff rejected a draft of the plan in June, requesting revisions.

The Cohen administration accepted an inventory of the site’s natural resources in March 2013, but no other approvals have been issued.

Andrew Bing, a Crystal Spring spokesman, said the developers support Cohen’s approach. “We think it shows proper respect to the new administration,” Bing said.

While Bing didn’t know the target date for the developers’ next submission, he said the team is looking forward to talking to Pantelides about the process moving forward.

We want to make sure before we submit our Forest Conservation Plan it has the benefit of those conversations,” Bing said.

Developers say Crystal Spring could be a boon to the local economy, creating 1,200 permanent jobs. Some seniors have advocated for the project, saying they can’t wait to move in.

But many neighborhood groups and environmental activists fear the construction will destroy one of the few forests left in Annapolis and do irreparable damage to wetlands.

Others worry how 500 additional housing units to the Forest Drive corridor would worsen traffic.

The Crystal Spring proposal could include 326 senior houses and apartments, 126 town houses without age restrictions and a 52-room nursing facility. The plans might also incorporate an inn, a chapel, a cultural arts center, a grocery store and a mix of stores and restaurants.

National Lutheran Communities and Services, a Rockville-based ministry, would own and operate the retirement community component of the project, called The Village at Crystal Spring.

All documents related to the city’s Forest Conservation Act review of the proposal are available on Annapolis’ website at bit.ly/11wpY0W.

www.twitter.com/elishasauers

(Reprinted from the Capital, November 14, 2013.)
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