Category Archives: Advocacy

Guest Column: Thoughts on outer West Street development

Appearing in The Capital, July 28, 2014

While the Chinquapin Round Road, West Street, Admiral Drive intersection needs to be reconfigured for sure, what I am worried about is the drive-through restaurant development discussed in a recent article.

This kind of auto-centric development will continue to reinforce the “highway” nature of outer West Street. This is exactly the wrong direction for the livability of the Homewood/Germantown area.

An auto-centric drive-through restaurant with its suburban strip mall setback, parking lot and access requirements is bad for the area from fiscal, transportation, planning and environmental standpoints. Auto-centric development is terrible for pedestrians and bicyclists, a significant issue for outer West Street because it is the only direct corridor between downtown and Parole.

The “street” nature of inner West Street is clearly popular with consumers and fiscally successful for the businesses and the city. As a result, the city needs to promote that “street” character westward as far as possible.

As the car dealerships wane in the area and other large parcels of land such as the old Whiskey location become available for redevelopment, the city must carefully consider the kind of development it should encourage. Case studies show reducing auto-centric development of roads and buildings benefits residents, municipalities and businesses. For example, an analysis by the nonprofit Strong Towns in Minnesota showed the fiscal productivity (tax revenue to the city) of the traditional main street development pattern versus a strip mall type drive-through restaurant was 30 percent higher (http://bit.ly/1tJGYeP).

Additionally, it shows this traditional pattern is significantly more resilient to economic changes because there are multiple tenants rather than relying on the success of a single business for the same amount of land. New York City published the results of changes to streets that included upgraded pedestrian and bicycle facilities and reduced auto speeds (http://on.nyc.gov/1pRKn8P). These changes resulted in significantly lower injuries to all street users, increases in retail sales and decreases in speeding, outcomes that benefit everyone.

There are a few encouraging signs of the type of redevelopment that should be emulated on this part of the West Street: 1901 West has been successful because it has incorporated “smart growth” ideas of mixed use residential and retail and simultaneously the additional density has not created “carmageddon” as was initially feared. The new commercial development at 1738 West St. also incorporates similar ideas such as the building fronting the street with parking in the back.

The traditional development pattern in these examples creates places that are oriented toward people, not cars, and is what makes places such as inner West Street so wonderful. In fact, these ideas are entirely consistent with the objectives for the Outer West Street Opportunity Area as specified in the Annapolis Comprehensive Plan, while a drive-through restaurant is decidedly not.

Outer West Street is at a crossroads: We can either have an area where people will enjoy living and working like inner West Street or we can slavishly follow auto-centric dogma that is so prevalent in other parts of the county and creates fiscally unproductive and unsafe environments for everyone.

We need to encourage more people-friendly development and convince the State Highway Administration (who owns this part of West Street) that we want a pedestrian/bicycle friendly “street,” not a “highway” as they consider changes due to any development along this corridor. The city should not let the desire to reconfigure the intersection at a developer’s expense result in a step backward for the area.

And, to be explicit, these comments have nothing to do with the purveyor of the food in the proposed development. As long as the development configuration is done in a positive way for the area, throw in a Burger Barn and a Doughnut Dive too.

Guest Column: Annapolis should join the Regional Transportation Agency

Appearing in The Capital, March 21, 2014

By BILL NEVEL AND ALEX PLINE

Both Annapolis and Anne Arundel County are at a crossroads for improving transit in their respective areas with the proposed Regional Transportation Agency.

A regional transit system would put this area on comparable footing with scores of major urban areas in the U.S. We understand County Executive Laura Neuman is very close to signing the agreement, but that Mayor Mike Pantelides has some concerns. We believe these concerns can be overcome and urge both to sign the agreement and join the RTA.

While there are shared reasons for joining the RTA for both the city and county, there are distinct advantages for each. Building on the city’s existing transit system, Annapolis and its transit employees have the opportunity to create the core of a regional system that could provide access to employment centers, schools, libraries, hospitals and other facilities throughout the county and surrounding jurisdictions. For the county, the RTA will provide an entity that has the ability and expertise to tailor public transportation services to support underserved and unserved areas in low density and high density areas.

One of the key service areas is BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport with an Amtrak station and surrounding businesses. Wouldn’t a fare of, for example, $3, be a much better option for employees that work at the airport or Fort George G. Meade/NSA, and for some travelers, than the current $60 plus cab fare from Annapolis? Only a regionally based system will be able to provide this type of service.

Additionally, the 21-member Anne Arundel County Transportation Commission, in its soon to be released report, indicates the county must find alternatives to its auto centric two- and three-car homes and resulting increased congestion on our highways. Quality alternatives need to be offered to reduce the number of single-occupancy vehicles, especially during peak commuting periods. The RTA is part of that solution.

Yes, there are concerns about dealing with other jurisdictions in creating this agency. Howard County’s interest is obviously Howard County and service to its residents. However, Howard County’s rider destinations, just as for riders from Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, don’t end at jurisdictional boundaries. The RTA will require these entities to work together to provide improved and much more attractive transit services that cross these boundaries. We believe this can be accomplished.

The Anne Arundel County Transportation Commission recommends jurisdictions create in advance many of the key terms of the RTA in the Memorandum of Understanding in order to minimize contentious issues for the appointed RTA Commission. The Memorandum of Understanding should establish sufficient safeguards to protect everyone’s interests when creating and operating the RTA. These include equitable appointment of commissioners from each jurisdiction, voting powers, powers to amend the bylaws, and selection and oversight of the contract manager. These safeguards should be spelled out and automatically rolled into the RTA’s bylaws, which can and should be adjusted as the RTA gains experience.

We believe these concerns can be resolved, ultimately resulting in an upgraded, equitable regional transit system with reasonable fares to places people need to go. This is the future of transit in the central Maryland region. If city residents are to have a transit system that connects Annapolis with other employment centers throughout the region to provide mobility and access to jobs, then Annapolis must sign the agreement and begin to work with the transit employees, the union, the transit operator and the other jurisdictions to establish the RTA.

Bill Nevel and Alex Pline were co-chairs of the 2013-2014 Anne Arundel County Transportation Commission.

Trish Cunningham Memorial Rally and Ride

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For more information contact: Alex Pline, alex@teampline.org, 443-­‐510-­‐7297 https://www.facebook.com/events/557691114304692/
Media Kit

Trish Cunningham Memorial Rally and Ride for Bicycle Safety Awareness Saturday September 28, 2012
7:00am Rally Start at Annapolis High School – 8:30 Bike Ride Start

Annapolis, MD, September 28, 2013 -­‐ On Wednesday August 21 at 5:30pm, 50 year-­‐old mother of three Trish Cunningham was riding her bike lawfully southbound on Riva Road in Davidsonville. As she was cresting a blind hill, a minivan attempted to pass, crossing the double yellow line. As the minivan was passing, an oncoming vehicle forced the driver to swerve into, strike and kill Ms. Cunningham. The driver was declared at fault by the Anne Arundel County Police Department.

Ride And Rally Details

This rally and following ride is to raise awareness of the Maryland 3-­‐Foot Law and to encourage all users of our city/county/state roads to respect the presence of bicycles on the roads as well as to pay tribute a life cut tragically short.

The rally will begin at Annapolis High School in the school parking lot at 7am with an area for interviews with the Rally spokesperson, area cyclists, the Anne Arundel County Police Bike Unit and Trish Cunningham’s family.

Following, the rally, a large group of cyclists will leave AHS as a group and travel down Riva Road escorted by the Anne Arundel County Police Bike Unit. A brief pause will be made for a moment of silence at the site where a Ghost Bike will be located. From there, the ride will continue to Riva Park, a distance of 4 miles from AHS. Riders wishing to return to AHS will be escorted back immediately after arriving at Riva Park. Riders wishing to participate must be able to cover the 8 miles under their own power.

Over 200 cyclists are expected to attend the ride in addition to members of the Annapolis running community, the Annapolis High School Track Team of which Trish was assistant coach, and supportive friends and family.

Maryland 3-­‐Foot Law

Maryland law states that the driver of a vehicle passing another vehicle, including a bicycle, must pass at a safe distance and leave plenty of space. Additionally, the driver of a vehicle must not pass within (3) feet to a bicycle if the bicycle is operated in a lawful manner. This is known as the “3-­‐ Foot Law”.

The Ghost Bike Tradition

A ghost bike is a bicycle set up as a roadside memorial in a place where a cyclist has been killed or severely injured. Apart from being a memorial, it is intended as a gentle reminder to passing motorists to share the road. Ghost bikes are usually junk bicycles painted white, sometimes with a placard.

Trish Cunningham

Trish Cunningham was a loving mother of Morgan, Ben and Avery, and husband Jerry as well as a respected cross country coach at Annapolis High School.

Parole and Mobility

Annapolis as portrayed on the city web site, is for the most part, a very walkable city: 

 “Take time to walk in our city and peer over the garden gates. Visit our many shops or relax on a water taxi in our harbor.”

However, once you leave the historic downtown core and head out the major arteries out of the city which connect to the greater Anne Arundel County area, things begin to change. In this series of posts I am going to concentrate on the West Street corridor because of the stark difference between what can be and what could be. I am going to discuss each segment of this corridor all the way out into the County because it does connect with the important retail in Parole. In this blog post, I will describe the bits and pieces to set the stage and follow up with additional posts and videos that describe the experience in this corridor. Not that anyone who drives down here doesn’t knows it gets horrible the farther out you go, but the experience for the perspective outside the car needs to be shown for people to understand really how bad it is. And finally, offer some options that I think the city, county and state should look into.

West Street can be broken up into three distinct sections: Inner (between Church Circle and Westgate Circle), Mid (Westgate Circle and Chiquapin Round Rd) and Outer (Chinquapin Round Rd and Solomons Island Rd).

Inner West Street is fabulous, don’t really need to say anything about that. The city has rightfully spent considerable effort to promote this area to great effect. There has been revitalization of businesses, mixed use, slow traffic and even a new residential complex near Westgate Circle (while not mixed use, has appropriate zoning for it in the future). That’s all good.

Mid West Street has a variety of uses, both commercial and residential and while it could use some “spiffing up” in places it is not too bad. My only real complaint is that the road is narrow (one travel lane in each direction with a center turn lane) and does not leave much room for bicycles. However, there are alternatives such as the Poplar mixed use trail so, I can’t really complain.

Where things really go down hill FAST is in the quarter mile before you get to Chinquapin Round Road, not so much because of the surrounding businesses or the homes, but because the road widens to four lanes (two travel lanes in each direction). It’s “full throttle” when leaving and a bottleneck when entering. The street view shows the transition from a 25 mph street to a 40+ mph “stroad”, making pedestrian crossing and cycling very risky. Once you get to the Chinquapin intersection, we get to “full on” AASHTO compliance with multiple turn lanes, signals etc. and beyond that all the way to Solomon’s Island Road (MD 2), it is four fast travel lanes, with lots of businesses, turning vehicles, and cub cuts, in other words, the classic “stroad” (street/road hybrid). Go watch the Ted Talk describing stroads, it’s enlightening; they are the futon of transportation, they do nothing very well. It’s dangerous for autos, pedestrians and bicyclists and it doesn’t move traffic very fast. There are some interesting features near and down outer West Street that provide hope, but it will take some political will and cooperation between the city, county and state to make it happen. I will concentrate on this area and the next segment to Parole.

Once you get to Solomons Island Road, you come to Annapolis Towne Centere at Parole, one of the recently built “Smart Growth” (infill) projects around the Annapolis area in addition to 1901 West Street, and the old downtown hospital site). The Parole development is a huge improvement from the decaying Parole Mall that it replaced, and it is a walkable “neighborhood” with first floor retail, apartments and big box stores, however, it has one very significant flaw – mobility in and around the area is extremely limited. In essence it is an island of walkability. While located in a highly urbanized area containing many kinds land uses from single family, suburban type strip shopping centers and some apartments, walking and biking in the area is unpleasant at best and ultimately very dangerous at worse. Until that fatal flaw is corrected, Towne Centere is nothing more than a suburban mall with the storefronts on the outside and vertical parking.

Until this corridor is more amenable to cycling and walking, people will drive to Towne Centre if they can or take their lives in their hands to walk as there have been several deaths in the area over the last year. It is my hope that pointing out the details of the problems with this area will help spur action by the city, state and county begin discussions about near term actions they can take. Cooperation will be imperative because of the multi-jurisdictional nature of the area. Each has a piece of the pie to fix.

Statement of Support – Annapolis Bicycle Master Plan

Annapolis City Council Meeting, January, 9 2012

Mr. Mayor and Council Members, thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Annapolis Bicycle Master Plan.

Auto-based transportation certainly has its place in our city and provides many benefits. However, auto dependence has many negative consequences, such as pollution, sprawling development patterns, unattractive urban development and can be disenfranchising to the young, old and less well off who cannot drive.

As such, I am a strong believer in the concept of non-auto dependent walkable/bikeable urban environments, one of the things I love about living in West Annapolis. Given the relatively compact nature of Annapolis, I believe the Bicycle Master Plan can have a significant impact on improving the rideability (AND walkability) of many areas around Annapolis that are currently very inhospitable except to cars. There is no reason one should not be able to ride a bike safely anywhere in the city. I ride bicycles around Annapolis as both a “spandex cyclist” and as part of my everyday life in street clothes (I rode down here tonight so I didn’t have to deal with finding a parking spot) and have experienced first hand the difficulty of getting around the city safely. From this experience, I have seen that there are many simple, inexpensive projects that can be implemented that would greatly enhance bikeability, such as providing bike/pedestrian only connections between non-through streets. In addition, as a parent of teenage children who are not old enough to drive, I wish there were safer options for them to get around the city providing them personal independence and social interaction with their peers without the need to be chauffeured around in a car.

The Bicycle Master Plan provides a broad spectrum of solutions for solving these problems, some relatively easy and some requiring infrastructure investment. Non-construction initiatives are also inexpensive and will help citizens understand the benefits of bicycles as transportation, which benefits everyone in the community. By approving the plan in its entirety, the city will have both an established strategic framework to guide future development and a list of projects which can be implemented piecemeal. These projects can be done as appropriate with available funding, as adjuncts to other infrastructure projects and as public opinion warms towards bicycling as a transportation mode in our ever increasing energy cost world.

Slots or No Slots, That is the Question… Again

Appearing in Annapolis Capital Punishment, September 23, 2010

Guest Editorial by Loyal Reader Alex Pline (ACP says thanks!):

The “slots” question is probably the most contentious issue we’ve had on the ballot since, well, the lasts “slots” question. Just like last time, every interest group is going full tilt. As such, it’s pretty difficult to make sense of the issue and decide how to answer the ballot question. Personally, I’m struggling with it. However, since there is so much special interest swirling around this, before I go any further, here’s my disclosure statement:

I am a regular taxpaying citizen of Anne Arundel County. I have no skin in the slots game other than the fact that I have two kids in the Anne Arundel County Public Schools. The closest I get to the county establishment is that my wife is president of the Bates Middle School PTA and I run their blog. I’m not a gambler, but I have no moral objection to it. I’ve just never enjoyed gambling, even socially – ask anyone in my neighborhood, I talk and drink more than play at the boys poker games – and I find the whole casino environment frankly, boring.

So stick with me while I work through how to vote on the ballot question to allow the zoning for slots to take effect. Let’s forget all the stuff we hear in the media and look at some facts. Marylanders voted in 2008 to allow slots. I was not one of them, but the voters spoke, and that is our form of government:

Statewide: For 59% Against 41%
AA County: For 59% Against: 41%
Precincts around Arundel Mills Mall (roughly): For 60% Against 40%

This is what the voters wanted and as a result there WILL be slots in Maryland – that is, the genie is out of the bottle. Even though I hate everything about gambling, why not allow Anne Arundel County bill 82-09 to become law by voting “For Question A” to approve Bill 82-09 on this November’s ballot? The bill says:

“Bill No.82-09 is a zoning bill and was enacted for the purpose of allowing a Video Lottery Facility as a conditional use in a W-1 Industrial Park zoning district or at a Regional Commercial Complex.”

Since there will be slots in Maryland, people are going to spend their money on this stuff in the relative proximity of Anne Arundel County whether we allow it in Anne Arundel County or not, i.e. they don’t have to drive to PA or DE or NJ to waste their money, they can do it within an hour drive. So if they are inclined to spend that way, they will, just not in Anne Arundel County.

So the problem I’m having is this: the arguments that were used for the 2008 referendum to allow/not allow slots in MD are really red herrings and not valid for allowing the zoning bill in Anne Arundel County to take effect, because as I said, the genie is out of the bottle:

1. If local businesses are going to be hurt, they are going to be hurt even if there are no slots in Anne Arundel County because the proximity of other non-Anne Arundel County sites is close enough that people will go there if they want to gamble; its just too close.

2. We all know the “extra funds for education” arguments are bogus. It’s just a shell game, as they will divert “regular” education funds in the same amount as those that come from slots – a zero sum game for education – but the fact remains that slots WILL be a net revenue producer for the county to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Who knows what the actual will be, but it won’t be negative.

3. Take a look at what the zoning bill actually stipulates (below): things that address people’s concerns of crime, crowding and traffic such as traffic and parking planning, lighting, security measures and noise level limits.

4. People around the Mall don’t want slots is, or was, not true: If you look at the 2008 votes around Arundel Mills Mall, they were largely in favor of slots. You lie in the bed you make.

While I personally hate everything about gambling and it galls me to vote in the affirmative on anything to do with gambling, given that the genie is out of the bottle in Maryland and the County needs money for EVERYTHING (not just education), why not let the suckas who want to voluntarily pay extra taxes by gambling do it?

Sounds like making lemonade from lemons to me. Mmmmmm…..

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2008 Election Sources:
http://www.msa.md.gov/msa/mdmanual/42electg/html/2008/2008const.html
http://www.aacounty.org/Elections/results/2008%20Primary%20Results%20by%20Polling%20Place/08%20Results%20FINAL/2008%20Presidential%20General%20Election%20SOVC%20Report.pdf

Ballot Question A:

Video Lottery Facilities are not permitted anywhere in Anne Arundel County under current zoning law. Bill No.82-09 is a zoning bill and was enacted for the purpose of allowing a Video Lottery Facility as a conditional use in a W-i Industrial Park zoning district or at a Regional Commercial Complex. Vote “For Bill 82-09” if you want Bill 82-09 to take effect. Vote “Against Bill 82-09” if you do not want bill 82-09 to take effect.

http://www.aacounty.org/Elections/Early%2520Voting%2FPDF%2520of%2520Torre%2520Ballot%2520Questions.pdf

Zoning Bill 82-09:

http://www.aacounty.org/CountyCouncil/Resources/2009/82-09.pdf

8-10-136. Video lottery facilities.

(B) Requirements. A VIDEO LOTTERY FACILITY SHALL COMPLY WITH ALL OF THE FOLLOWING REQUIREMENTS.
(1) THE FACILITY SHALL COMPLY WITH THE LOCATIONAL REQUIREMENTS IMPOSED BY ARTICLE XIX, § 1(C)(3)(I) OF THE CONSTITUTION OF MARYLAND.
(2) THE FACILITY SHALL BE LOCATED ON A LOT OF AT LEAST 50 ACRES IN A W1 INDUSTRIAL PARK DISTRICT OR A REGIONAL COMMERCIAL COMPLEX AND SHALL BE ACCESSIBLE TO AN ARTERIAL OR HIGHER CLASSIFICATION ROAD.
(3) THE FACILITY SHALL COMPLY WITH ALL APPLICABLE BULK REGULATIONS FOR THE ZONING DISTRICT IN WHICH THE FACILITY IS LOCATED.
(4) THE FACILITY SHALL COMPLY WITH A TRANSPORTATION MANAGEMENT PLAN THAT IS APPROVED BY THE OFFICE OF PLANNING AND ZONING.
(5) THE FACILITY SHALL COMPLY WITH A TRAFFIC STUDY THAT ASSESSES THE IMPACTS OF NEW TRAFFIC GENERATED BY THE PROPOSED USE ON MAJOR ROADS AND INTERSECTIONS AS REQUIRED BY ARTICLE 17 AND THAT IS APPROVED BY THE OFFICE OF PLANNING AND ZONING.
(6) THE FACILITY SHALL CONFORM TO AN APPROVED SITE DEVELOPMENT PLAN IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE REQUIREMENTS OF ARTICLE 17.
(7) THE FACILITY SHALL CONFORM TO APPROVED PLANS FOR OFF-STREET PARKING THAT SHOW ALL DESIGNATED PARKING AREAS, INCLUDING HANDICAPPED SPACES, BUS PARKING, LOADING, AND DELIVERY AREAS.
(8) THE FACILITY SHALL INCLUDE LIGHTING THAT ILLUMINATES ALL PARKING AREAS AND WALKWAYS AND IS FOCUSED SO AS TO PREVENT GLARE UPON SURROUNDING AREAS.
(9) THE FACILITY SHALL PROVIDE 24-HOUR SECURITY FOR THE FACILITY AND ADJACENT PARKING AREAS, SEPARATE FROM SECURITY PROVIDED BY OTHER COMMERCIAL OR INDUSTRIAL ESTABLISHMENTS IN THE VICINITY OF THE FACILITY.
(10) THE FACILITY SHALL COMPLY WITH A WRITTEN PLAN APPROVED BY THE PLANNING AND ZONING OFFICER TO CONTROL LOITERING AND CONSPICUOUSLY POST “NO LOITERING” SIGNS IN ALL PARKING AREAS.
(11) THE FACILITY, INCLUDING ADJACENT PARKING AREAS, SHALL BE CLEARED OF LITTER AND REFUSE DAILY.
(12) THE FACILITY SHALL ENSURE THAT NOISE FROM THE FACILITY DOES NOT EXCEED A DAYTIME LEVEL OF 67 DBA OR A NIGHTTIME LEVEL OF 62 DBA AT THE LOT LINES.
(13) THE FACILITY SHALL BE LICENSED BY THE STATE AND SUBJECT TO STATE REGULATION AND ENFORCEMENT.

(C) Alcoholic beverages. A VIDEO LOTTERY FACILITY MAY OPERATE ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE USES ACCESSORY TO OTHER USES IN THE W1 INDUSTRIAL PARK DISTRICT AND IN A REGIONAL COMMERCIAL COMPLEX SUBJECT TO THE REQUIREMENTS OF § 18- 10-103 AND STATE LAW AND REGULATION.