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Final Zoning Changes Pass During Heated County Council Hearing

August 1 deadline meant the final requests were introduced at Monday's meeting.

A last-minute addition to the County Council’s comprehensive rezoning list on Monday opened the door for a Fiat car dealership at the gateway to southern Anne Arundel County.

On Monday, the final 15 additions to the county’s 10-year comprehensive rezoning process were added to the table for Districts 6 and 7. The process allows council members to place eleventh hour amendments on the table for a vote, but August 1 was the deadline for the new proposals.

Within minutes of the start of Monday’s council meeting, District 7 Councilman Jerry Walker (R-Gambrills) expressed doubts about sponsoring a commercial upzoning on Solomon’s Island Road that would bring a car dealership to the former police station lot at the entrance to the neighborhood of Edgewater Beach. But ultimately, the council approved the upzoning by a 5-2 vote with Councilmen Chris Trumbauer (D-Annapolis) and James Benoit (D-Odenton) voting nay.

Council members voiced their approval of property owner George Criswell’s promise to bring more than 20 new jobs to the area with the business.

“Mr. Criswell, bring us some jobs,” said Councilman Derek Fink (R-Pasadena), before voting.

Councilman John Grasso (R-Glen Burnie) said he had campaigned for his position on creating more jobs in the county, and felt obligated to vote yes, despite the dozens of protestors filling the council’s chambers the past two meetings.

During the lengthy public hearing portion of the meeting, Criswell spoke to the council, saying that if his property was not upzoned from C2 to C4, his hand would be forced, and a 24-hour fast-food restaurant would be built instead of a dealership. But with the rezoning now nearly in the bag, Criswell said that dealership is “a definite go.”

After the meeting, Criswell clarified, saying that the dealership may take between 18-24 months to get moving. However he said he had a firm commitment from Fiat that they would work with him on establishing the business.

“I think the council had a lot of tough decisions to make, but this was the right one,” Criswell said after the vote.

Dozens of those who protested Criswell’s upzoning returned to the mic on Monday after attending a five-hour-long session just a week earlier on the same issue.

Buddy Garland, president of the Edgewater Beach Association, said the 11th-hour approach to this rezoning was suspicious.

“The reason you’d do something at the last minute is because it’s wrong,” Garland said. “(Walker) has a chance to seize the high ground.”

Jim Doyle, a representative of the residential area behind Criswell’s property, said just over five years ago, the county designated this property as C2 for a reason. They had worked with the community to establish that zoning. Criswell was not honoring that agreement, he said.

“How will you ever get communities to work with you again if you proceed in this fashion?” Doyle asked the council.

After the council adjourned just after midnight, Walker rushed to the exit and was not available for questions or comments regarding the last-minute addition of Criswell’s property to the amendment list.

A final vote for the full package of 46 amendments will be taken at the council’s next meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. on August 15.

The final 14 rezoning amendments were added at Monday's meeting. They are:

Amendment Address Vote Tally 18 1861 Crownsville Road, Annapolis – R2 Residential - W2 Light Industrial District 5-2

33

1361 Generals Highway, Annapolis – RLD Residential Low Density - SB Small Business District 7-0
 34 175 Cox Road, Gambrills – RA Rural Agricultural - R1 Residential

6-1

35

5516 Muddy Creek Road, Churchton – RA Rural Agricultural - C3 General Commercial Districts

7-0
36

5517-5521 Muddy Creek Road, Churchton – C3 General Commercial Districts - W2 Light Industrial District

4-3
37

1300 Defense Highway, Gambrills – RA Rural Agricultural - C4 Highway Commercial District

7-0
38

3920 Germantown Road, Edgewater – RA Rural Agricultural - MB General Commercial Marina District

6-1
39
3932 Germantown Road, Edgewater –MA Community Marina District /R2 Residential - MB General Commercial Marina District
7-0
40

650-654 Deale Road, Deale – C3 General Commercial Districts - C4 Highway Commercial District

4-3
41

1581 Defense Highway, Gambrills – C1 Local Commercial Districts - C3 General Commercial Districts

7-0
42

1450 Snug Harbor Road, Shadyside – C1 Local Commercial Districts - W2 Light Industrial District

6-1
43

1541 Defense Highway, Gambrills – RA Rural Agricultural - SB Small Business District

7-0
44

W. Central Avenue & Solomons Island Road, Edgewater – RA Rural Agricultural - C2 Commercial Office Districts

5-2
45

MD 2/MD 408/MD 422, Lothian – RA Rural Agricultural - C1 Local Commercial Districts

4-3 46

2972 Solomons Island Road, Edgewater – C2 Commercial Office Districts - C4 Highway Commercial District

5-2

Planning and Zoning Director Larry Tom warned the council not to be so hasty on the commercial zoning trigger. He said these last minute additions created chaos for planners, particularly when they go against the grain of the general and small area plans for the associated areas.

“When you choose to ignore those plans, you’re really saying to the community that you’re willing to take a risk,” he said. “I have a lot of concerns about the proliferation of commercial property.”

 In many cases, the rezoning was being requested to resolve the problem of businesses having outside storage. Chairman Dick Ladd said this was a recurring theme in this year’s round of comprehensive rezoning, and he’d prefer these changes be looked at more closely.

Walker said he would like to work with the county’s Planning and Zoning office on a change to the zoning books that would address outside storage more specifically. Tom said he agreed that it could benefit from a closer look.

Bobby August 02, 2011 at 09:31 PM
Why do we even pay the salary of Planning and Zoning Director Larry Tom and his team? Apparently the County Council knows more about his job then he does!!!!! It made no difference anytime planning and zoning was against any of the properties being rezoned. Also it surely did not matter what the TAX payers had to say, the people that live in the areas, the people that pay the salaries and bills in this county. Got to love the Anne Arundel County Government!!!!!!
Jim Davis August 02, 2011 at 09:36 PM
I don't remember seeing any signs of doubt regarding bringing "Waldorf" to downtown Edgewater. My impression was that with the Criswell property and Rt2/214 they were done deals only waiting for the final stamp of approval. As to the Criswell property, the neighbors and P&Z's opposition seemed to have no measurable impact on "our Councilman". It appears to me that the only thing we have to be thankful for is that the door is now shut on this round of Council Maniac Zoning". Hopefully the next time we have to go through this drill we will have a Council member that has to drive over the South River Bridge on a regular and daily basis.
jd August 02, 2011 at 10:03 PM
SPRAWL AND CRAWL continues SOUTH! Thank you developers and our elected officials! Of 46 amendments only 4 are defeated. I bet 90% go against P&Z recommendations! Why are important decisions that we citizens have to live with left up to part time politicians? We need the Patch to keep a tally of how each individual Councilmen votes. So when we mere mortals get to vote we know who votes with their neighbors and who votes for special interests and the continued paving over of the county. Smart growth is one thing, this is shameful. When does quality of life get a vote? Trivia Quiz..How many councilmen voted "yes" 100% of the time?
Bobby Baybilly August 02, 2011 at 11:12 PM
Hey, let's open a house of ill repute and tax 'em. That would bring jobs, tax revenue and loads of fun to Edgewater... and council members could be paid off in kind.
NANCY August 03, 2011 at 12:00 PM
I agree with jd....I want to know who voted too, so I can vote against them! Hopefully after this debacle, some south county citizens will run for council and keep this entire county's quality of life in the forefront of every decision made. I'm leary about those supposed 20 new jobs (and who they will go to). Will someone be keeping tabs on that....and what if 20 positions don't materialize? What will be done then??
Carol Nida August 03, 2011 at 01:18 PM
For anyone who wants to know who voted yay, the article states there was "a 5-2 vote with Councilmen Chris Trumbauer (D-Annapolis) and James Benoit (D-Odenton) voting nay." Since Jerry Walker was at the meeting and beat a hasty retreat at the door afterwards, and he didn't vote "nay" - the answer on this one is quite obvious. Our representative for District 7 did not stand up for his constituents.
Judi Fey August 03, 2011 at 01:18 PM
South County has no representation on the County Council. We interviewed all candidates prior to the election and Jerry Walker was the only one who would not commit to holding the line at no conmmercial south of route 214. What a travesty!
Jim Davis August 03, 2011 at 01:41 PM
"Our representative for District 7 did not stand up for his constituents." Perhaps he did, it is just they aren't the residents of South County. Jerry Walker is best described as the "spare Council Man from Crofton". Hopefully the redistricting will shift the district lines to give the residents of South County a Council Member who actually has to cross the South River Bridge on a daily basis.
Patricia O'Brien - Boarman August 03, 2011 at 02:23 PM
I am appalled that our Councilman for the 7th District "did not" listen to the residents of South Anne Arundel County who repeatedly kept saying "Keep South County Rural and Agricultural, I am a longtime resident and Civic Activist of South County and the voices of South County are not being heard, talking about most all newcomers on the County Council and no Women on the Council, we have no representation in the 7th District. Why didn't Mr. Criswell invite residents to his meeting from Londontowne and other Communities in South County, no, he only invited the residents of Edgewater beach, I was at the meeting held when he wanted a Bank to go there, the bank pulled out, no, he only wante a "few" residents there? What happens with this new zoning if Fiat pulls out in then future? Wow! then the door is open for high Commercial which is "not" compatible with our area. The majority of our newly elected County Councilmen are "inexperienced", therefore could use the knowledge of their constituents, but seems they are not listening. Residents let's continue to keep a watchful eye as sometimes once a property is rezoned what goes on the property is not what was requested at the hearings before the Council. What this Council has done is not controlled growth, but made our area open to more crime, congested traffic and ruined our countryside. Shame on all of you Councilman who voted in favor of upzoning in South County.
Sue August 03, 2011 at 03:37 PM
Shame on you Jerry Walker- Up until the end you kept saying " you had not made up your mind." At least you could have manned up and said what you were going to do. Its funny- he no longer replies to emails- There is something so wrong when a vast amount of zoning changes take place in this back door manor. Of all the places I have lived this is the only place where I have had NO local governance.
joan turek August 03, 2011 at 08:15 PM
To have a fighting chance of electing a councilman who understands South County Issues, we need to get Crofton out of our district---they voted Jerry into office. Tell the redistrictig commission--they get e-mails through Dick Ladd's office--dladd@aacounty.org.
Carolyn Ricketts August 03, 2011 at 09:26 PM
Love all the comments, could not agree with them more. Monday was a disgusting show of Councilmen Jerry Walker's keen desire to turn all of Edgewater, (where he does not live,) into urban hell. We will now get to watch any remaining green space and wildlife habitat be torn down and replaced with concrete and commercial buildings we do not want, have no need for; and will add to the 55% to 65% vacancies we are currently enjoying at SRC Main Street. How can we possibly improve water quality in our creeks, rivers and ultimately the Bay if Councilmen like Walker keep pushing to tear down forests and pave over wetlands? I would like to know, who is Walker actually working for? Certainly not the residents in District 7.
Harry Balzonia August 03, 2011 at 09:46 PM
Just goes to show politicians are scum at all levels...
Sue August 04, 2011 at 06:31 PM
Doesn't Mr. Walker owe us his constituents an explanation of his decision? I am emailing him (yet again) to ask that he address his constituents specifically the SRC and the South County alliances.
Jim Davis August 05, 2011 at 04:59 PM
At this point in time the best, perhaps only, thing to do is write John Leopold and let him know how you feel. With enough constituent feed back he might take the proper action and veto this debacle, or at least the worst parts of it. The Honorable John R. Leopold Anne Arundel County Executive 44 Calvert Street Annapolis, MD 21404 jleopold@aacounty.org
joan turek August 05, 2011 at 06:04 PM
You should also cc the council---so they know how we feel wen they consider John'v vetos.
Cindy Edson August 07, 2011 at 10:55 PM
How did Anne Arundel Councilmembers get the title of "Honorable"?

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