Cohen Decides Not To Introduce Priest Point's Amendment Tonight ~ Annapolis Capital Punishment

Monday, October 5, 2009

Cohen Decides Not To Introduce Priest Point's Amendment Tonight

County Councilman Josh Cohen has decided to pull the amendment to a bill concerning the development of Priest's Point waterfront at tonight's county council meeting. CP reported on controversy surrounding this in a post yesterday written by a local resident:

I will not be introducing an amendment tonight to change the County's land use designation for Priests Point.  Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to participate and provide feedback.

The purpose of my proposed amendment was to protect the environment and minimize the impact of development on the community.  Although I no longer plan to introduce the amendment, the owner's interest in developing the property remains.

In this email I want to clearly explain the issues and facts as I see them: 1. What is the issue at hand, 2. the benefit of the proposed amendment, 3. my objective in opening up this discussion, 4. the reason I am not going to introduce the amendment, and 5. my hopes for the future.


Although I and others would love to see the property remain undeveloped, the issue at hand is not if it will be developed but how.  If the issue were whether or not to allow development, I would be fighting to protect it from any development.  But because we cannot prevent development on this property, my goal is to ensure the best possible development with minimal environmental and community impact.

Some of the emails I have received about Priests Point are based on the inaccurate premise that the property is protected from development.  For example, one individual wrote, "we are opposed to the development of this special parcel of land."  Although some may view this beautiful 17-acre property as a public preserve, it is private property whose owner may build on it as a matter of right.


The benefit of the amendment was to allow what would have been a more environmentally friendly, less impactful development of the property.  Specifically, the amendment would have protected untouched woodland and limited development to one house.

Current zoning allows the owner to build two houses near the entrance to the property in an area that is wooded and would require significant removal of trees and vegetation.  Instead the owner wants to build one house near the center of the property in an area that is stabilized and already mostly cleared.  Current zoning prohibits this.  In my view this is a situation where the existing zoning works against the more environmentally sound development of the property.


My objective in bringing stakeholders together two years ago was to empower the community to shape the future development of the property.  I pursued this course only after the president of a local watershed conservancy expressed support for it.  The suggestion made by a few people that I was pursuing the amendment to benefit the property owner is wholly inaccurate.

Priests Point has been a sensitive issue for years, with a long history of mistrust and disputes between various owners of the property and community leaders.  This dysfunctional dynamic has been counterproductive to everyone's best interests.  My hope in fostering a dialogue was to promote a more productive, pragmatic and dispassionate resolution for all involved.


The reason I am not going to introduce the amendment is a lack of consensus among the watershed and neighborhood groups affected.  My position has been consistent that I would proceed only if there was a critical mass of support among the stakeholders.  There is strong support from some quarters and strong opposition from others.  In other words, public sentiment falls far short of a workable consensus.

To date the Severn Riverkeeper, the Severn River Association and two immediate neighbors have contacted me in support of the land use change.  The Weems Creek Conservancy, the Trollhaven HOA and several other residents have expressed opposition.  Still others have expressed that they simply do not know enough to make an informed decision.  All told, any action to change the land use designation would be premature at this time.


I hope that the proposed amendment will prompt further dialogue among the residents, environmental groups and property owner about how to achieve common ground.  The owner has demonstrated a willingness to reach out to those affected and to address their concerns.  I encourage the community stakeholders to proactively reach out not only to the owner but to each other, rather than take a reactive posture.  I am happy to assist if requested.

As always, please call on me if I can be of help or if you would like to discuss this further: 410-222-1401.  I am sending this to individuals who have been involved or included in the recent discussions about Priests Point.  I may be missing some people so please feel free to share this with others.

Best regards,


Joshua J. Cohen
Councilman, Sixth District
Anne Arundel County Council

LISTEN TO CP Publisher Paul Foer on 1430WNAV at 8:15 every weekday morning.

Join us every Thursday morning, from 8-9 am for our Sip N' Blogs normally at ZU Coffee, 934 Bay Ridge Road, Annapolis, Maryland, in the Giant Shopping Center. Special guests will be:
Oct 8--Mat Silverman, Ward 5
Oct. 15--Josh Cohen
Oct 22--Chris Fox (at Sly Fox Pub)
Oct 29--Dave Cordle
Stop by on your way to work for your morning latte and meet other local activists. Zu now has a drive-through window!


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