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
331361 Generals Highway, Annapolis – RLD Residential Low Density - SB Small Business District 7-0
34 175 Cox Road, Gambrills – RA Rural Agricultural - R1 Residential
5516 Muddy Creek Road, Churchton – RA Rural Agricultural - C3 General Commercial Districts7-0
5517-5521 Muddy Creek Road, Churchton – C3 General Commercial Districts - W2 Light Industrial District4-3
1300 Defense Highway, Gambrills – RA Rural Agricultural - C4 Highway Commercial District7-0
3920 Germantown Road, Edgewater – RA Rural Agricultural - MB General Commercial Marina District6-1
3932 Germantown Road, Edgewater –MA Community Marina District /R2 Residential - MB General Commercial Marina District
650-654 Deale Road, Deale – C3 General Commercial Districts - C4 Highway Commercial District4-3
1581 Defense Highway, Gambrills – C1 Local Commercial Districts - C3 General Commercial Districts7-0
1450 Snug Harbor Road, Shadyside – C1 Local Commercial Districts - W2 Light Industrial District6-1
1541 Defense Highway, Gambrills – RA Rural Agricultural - SB Small Business District7-0
W. Central Avenue & Solomons Island Road, Edgewater – RA Rural Agricultural - C2 Commercial Office Districts5-2
MD 2/MD 408/MD 422, Lothian – RA Rural Agricultural - C1 Local Commercial Districts4-3 46
2972 Solomons Island Road, Edgewater – C2 Commercial Office Districts - C4 Highway Commercial District5-2
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.