Volume 12, Issue 48 ~ November 25 - December 1, 2004
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Dock of the Bay

Buying Peace and Quiet

Annapolis Roads Community and Bay Ridge Trust Fend off Development

Just off bustling Forest Drive, with 30,000 motorists whizzing by each day, is an oasis, a community that encompasses woods, wetlands and a golf course. Listen closely and you can hear the crickets chirping.

The serenity of Annapolis Roads will change if a land deal is completed. Riberta Development, LLC, would collaborate with St. Mary’s Church in Annapolis to buy for new development land now used as a golf course. Through restrictions on the deed, the land occupied by the nine-hole golf course — which is owned by Annapolis Roads resident George Graeffee — can only be used for recreation. On it, St. Mary’s would build ballfields and a gymnasium.

“St. Mary’s plan to make Annapolis golf course a ballfield complex would be devastating to our community,” says Dave Buemi, a resident of Annapolis Roads and a member of the property owners’ association’s land-use team.

There’s still more to the deal. If St. Mary’s gets the land for ballfields, both the golf course land and the bordering woods would be annexed, becoming part of Annapolis proper. As city rather than county property, the land’s rezoning would allow the developer to build high-density townhomes and condos.

Thus Riberta Development could construct high-rises on adjacent 33-acre Ogleton Woods, a property it already owns. The dwellings would be specifically for seniors; new family housing cannot be built in the area because its schools are already at capacity.

“Annexation to the city would mean more lax zoning and development standards,” says Buemi.

Independent of the church-developer proposal, Annapolis Roads Property Owners Association has been working for over a year to purchase Ogleton Woods, thus saving the land from rezoning and development.

All this talk of development has Annapolis Roads residents hopping mad. At a community meeting last month, 160 neighbors met to discuss what to do.

“People were really concerned about this,” says resident Kara Flynn. “We’re very worried about how it’s going to change things here.”

Photo by Carrie Steele
Annapolis Roads resident Dave Buemi considers at Ogleton Woods, which could be turned into high rises if sold to a developer.
Their concerns about development are threefold: First, the ballfields would bring additional noise to the relatively quiet communty.

“I have an infant, and I’d be very concerned about noise pollution, with crowds of noisy teenagers rushing to their games,” says Flynn.

Second, residents are concerned about habitat and what the loss of wetlands and woods would mean to ecological diversity.

“This is the last undeveloped tract on Annapolis Neck, and most of Ogleton Woods is wetlands,” says Buemi.

“What’s going to happen to habitat behind my house?” Flynn worries. “Right now there’s ferns, owls, foxes — I guess it just dies. To me, that’s a tradegy.”

Third, development and ballfields would bring hundreds more cars onto the narrow, winding roads. Buemi estimates 1,000 more cars a day, all entering from Annapolis Roads’ sole entrance, Carrollton Drive. The only road to Carrollton Drive — Forest Drive, which becomes Bay Ridge Avenue — serves the whole southern side of the Annapolis Neck peninsula, which encompasses many communities as well as Annapolis Roads.

Annapolis Roads isn’t alone in trying to outbid developers: The community’s next-door neighbor is Bay Ridge. Since 1989, the Bay Ridge Trust has preserved 114 acres of undeveloped land on the Annapolis Neck Peninsula.

Now the Bay Ridge Trust is helping the Annapolis Roads Property Owners Association bid to keep its green island. “The trust is providing the 501c mechanism that allows for donations to be tax-deductible,” says the Trust’s Bill Davidson. “The Trust would purchase the rights to devlopment from the association and extinguish those rights through a conservation easement.”

In other words, the Trust would own the rights to develop the land, with conservation restrictions becoming part of the permanent deed.

“We’ve been endevoring in this for about a year now,” says Davidson. “This is the model that makes the most sense: for Annapolis Roads to own the land and then sell development rights to the Trust. This will be maximum pay for conservation value.”

Such deals are nothing new to the Trust, which has accepted land donations and purchased easements on other land in the Annapolis Neck peninsula, including parcels in Bay Ridge, Hillsmere and the Chespeake Bay Foundation’s Bay Ridge property.

The Trust has had appraisals done on the land but are not telling how much money will need to be raised.

“I think that we have an offer that is fair,” says Trust president Dan Wells. “The community is very concerned and determined.”

The property owners association began campaigning for donations in October, when they recieved a challenge grant for hudreds of thousand of dollars from within the community. They’re planning to present their case, along with pledge forms, to neighborhoods both inside and outside Annapolis Roads. The donations will be collected by the trust; anyone who wants to protect the woods and land can contribute.

“We already have several hundred thousand dollars,” Buemi saud. “We’re a qualified buyer.”

Residents have waged a letter-writing battle as well, targeting St. Mary’s Church, County Executive Janet Owens and Annapolis Mayor Ellen Moyer.

“I’m so impressed with the resident response,” Buemi said. “We’ve flooded officials with letters. The community’s extremely united and very motivated.”

Sandwiched between Lake Ogleton and the Chesapeake Bay, the Annapolis Roads neighborhoods feature winding roads with well-wooded lots and plenty of green space and water. The community, designed in part by the prestigious Olmsted Brothers, was built in sections of houses around the golf course, starting in 1926.

“This is just beautiful,” Buemi said as he motioned to woods leading up to Lake Ogleton, “We just try to be stewards of it and make sure it doesn’t get totally obliterated.”

—Carrie Steele

Photo by Carrie Steele
Craftsman James Beggins, with fellow woodwright James McMartin, not shown, built the governor’s new desk from the fallen Wye oak.
The Mighty Wye Lives On Maryland’s Gov. Sits at History’s Desk

There’s no raven that comes with this writing desk, but it’s full of stories nonetheless.

The new desk at which Gov. Robert Ehrlich and his successors will work is wood from the fallen 460-year-old Wye Oak tree.
After the nation’s largest white oak fell in a thunderstorm in the summer of 2002, wood from the stately tree became lumber, and all Maryland pondered its best use.

Estimated by the forest service at 35 tons, the fallen Wye Oak became a seal for the Talbot County courthouse and crosses for the churches of Wye Mills. Artists and citizens were welcome to leftovers by lottery and public sale. And roughly 200 board feet were devoted to a desk for the governor’s office.

“That isn’t a whole lot,” said Dan Rider of the Forest Service. “That’s about half a pickup load.”

Last week, Ehrlich and state archivist Edward Papenfuse showed the state what McMartins & Beggins Furniture Makers of St. Michael’s had made of the old oak.

The 42-inch-wide-by-74-inch-long Wye Oak desk was unveiled in the rotunda of the State House.
“This is not my desk, it’s the people’s desk,” Ehrlich said just before the black cloth tied with gold ribbon that covered the desk was lifted. Children from the Naval Academy Primary School watched in hushed expectation; then the Easton High School Concert Choir burst into song.

“The oak gives us sense of time, scale and longevity,” said Maryland Department of Natural Resources forester Stark McLaughlin, who worked with the Wye Oak when it stood tall in its small namesake state part at Wye Mills. McLaughlin recalled that many Wye Oak visitors felt touched by the tree. At least one couple married under its expansive branches.

After the tree went down, McLaughlin said, “people cried and prayed.”

But there’s a happy future for this old tree.

“The desk could well last another 400 years,” McLaughlin said.

Craftsmen James McMartin and James Beggins carved and assembled the desk out of their St. Michael’s furniture store in just six months. The wood from the tree’s 32-foot-around trunk was exceptionally dense, McMartin said.

“We had parameters, but the design was basically up to us,” said McMartin, whose company also recently finished two pieces for the vice president’s residence. “The bow front gives it a simple grace that a square-fronted desk doesn’t have.” Detailing includes sheepskin leather with gold foil embossed on the top.

“It would be hard to find a better way to preserve the legacy of the tree,” said Henry Rosenberg, the Baltimore businessman who contributed $25,000 for the labor that transformed tree to desk.

—Carrie Steele

Ask the Plant Professor

In Indoor Gardens, Death Comes by Drowning

Q My jasmine was in a very small pot and I transplanted it into a larger pot. Since that time the leaves are falling off. It’s inside in the sun with potting soil that includes fertilizer. 

A Several factors cause leaf drop. Jasmine like bright light (and some direct sun to bloom), but they prefer cool temperatures (about 60 degrees), so it can be difficult to find a comfortable place for them. A bright window may be too hot.

Watering is a common culprit. Too much or too little water causes leaf stress, which can lead to leaf drop. Allow the top half inch of soil to dry between watering. Also, repotting should be done in early spring or summer and to a pot that is only one to two sizes larger. Pots that are too large retain too much water for roots to absorb. This can lead to root death if the potting mix stays saturated with water.

Q I have a variety of houseplants growing well, but all get a white growth on top of the soil. I do very little fertilizing. The more I leave them alone, the better they do.

A The white growth on the soil sounds like mold. You can scrape off the present growth; then cut back on watering. Most houseplants prefer that their soil be dry on the surface before they are rewatered. Overwatering is the most common killer of houseplants.

Ask the Plant and Pest Professor is compiled from questions sent to the website of the Home and Garden Information Center, part of Maryland Cooperative Extension, an educational outreach of the University of Maryland. Ask a home gardening or pest control question and find other help: 800-342-2507 (Mon.-Fri. 8am-1pm) • www.hgic.umd.edu.

Way Downstream

In Annapolis, the Naval Academy last week purchased two underwater robots that will replace equipment destroyed by Tropical Storm Isabel last year. The tiny VideoRay Pro III vehicles, complete with sonar and manipulator arms, can be used for underwater surveillance, examining ship hulls, security sweeps and investigations. See the new robots at videoray.com/Press_Room/press_release.htm …

In Virginia, giant menhaden operations can keep on netting vast quantities of the Chesapeake Bay’s prime fish food as a result of a decision in New Hampshire last week. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission declined to place limits on the commercial menhaden industry, rankling charterboat captains and fishermen convinced that too few of the baitfish are making it into Maryland waters …

Our Creature Feature comes from Croatia, where wolves have made a storybook recovery now that they’re a protected species that it is illegal to kill. Shepherds say their villages have reverted to the days when wolves were storybook villains.

In Annapolis, the Nov. 18 memo from press secretary Greg Massoni showed Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s irritation with The Baltimore Sun for stories and columns about a plan to sell sensitive state lands: “Effective immediately, no one in the executive department or agencies is to speak with David Nitkin or Michael Olesker until further notice. Do not return calls or comply with any requests. The governor’s press office feels that currently both are failing to objectively report on any issue dealing with the Ehrlich-Steele administration” …

In Seattle, coffee giant Starbucks said last week that next year it will begin making its cups partly from recycled paper. Its supplier, Mississippi River Corp., received FDA approval this fall to make its cups with 10 percent recycled materials …

In London, a new “white paper” from the National Health Service calls for not only a ban on smoking in pubs but also new heavy restrictions on junk food advertising, all to improve British health ...

Our Creature Feature comes from the outback in Australia, where poisonous baby toads have invaded a seaside park in such numbers that witnesses say the ground seems to move. Portions of the Arakwal National Park are entirely covered with the black cane toads, which grow to the size of dinner plates.

The ugly amphibians became one of Australia’s worst pests after being brought in from Hawaii to keep down beetles in sugar cane fields. Problem was, someone forgot that the beetles could fly, enabling them to escape. The imported assassins also survived.

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