The preservation-minded leaders of this historic city on the Severn refused to give McDonald's a break today, rejecting the hamburger giant's bid to open a fast-food parlor in an old residential neighborhood.
The City Council's denial of a permit for McDonald's to construct a 120-seat restaurant in the Hillsmere Shores neighborhood of south Annapolis marked the second time in three years that the hamburger empire's growth plans have been thwarted by the image-conscious residents of Maryland's quaint capital city.
"There's a little feeling of David versus Goliath here, something to be savored," said Aileen Telley, one of the principal organizers of a citizen lobbying effort against McDonald's building plans.
In the winter of 1976, McDonald's attempt to build a restaurant here ended when 1,500 normally mild-mannered citizens rolled an effigy of the McDonald mascot, Ronald McDonald, through the streets in a wheelbarrow and dumped him into the harbor. The bogus mascot, actually the son of city alderman Edward Finnegan, pulled from the icy waters unharmed moments later.
Then, as now, residents were opposed to the litter, noise and vandalism they said would accompany the fast-food outlet. Hillsmere residents have been arguing for 11 months that they do not want the additional traffic congestion and what they call the "disruptive influence" of McDonald's near their serene neighborhood.
Last October, Hillsmere residents banded together as the Annapolis Neck Federation to learn more about McDonald's building plans, only to be "put off" for several months by hamburger officials, Talley said Monday.
"By the time we finally got a meeting set in January," said Talley, "they [McDonald's planners] told us they already knew how many hamburgers we were going to buy and that there wasn't much we could do about it."
Two weeks ago about 150 Hillsmere residents packed the city council chambers here, telling their lawmakers a hamburger franchise would bring trash, traffic and vandalism to the neighborhood.
"Put a McDonald's here and you will place a dagger in the heart of Hillsmere," resident Alex Karlin told the council. "It's going to be downhill from here."
No one spoke in favor of the restaurant at the public hearing except representatives from McDonald's regional offices in Vienna, who said tht extra cleanup efforts by franchise owners would ensure that litter would not become a problem.
A traffic consultant hired by the fast food chain said the increase in traffic would be minimal. "The average person won't even be able to detect the increase in traffic," the consultant said.
In denying McDonald's request for a building permit the council pointed out that while McDonald's had shown its need for a franchise in Hillsmere it had shown no need on the part of residents.
No officials of McDonald's were present for the council decision Monday. Efforts to elicit comments from company officials today were unsuccessful.