A proposed amendment that would have allowed developers to build condominiums, offices and shops on Bestgate Road in Annapolis was withdrawn by the Anne Arundel County Council shortly before it was set to vote on the request Monday night.
Council members had also been slated to vote Feb. 18 on the amendment to transform a 54-acre property near Westfield Shoppingtown Annapolis into "The Village at Bestgate."
But that meeting was postponed, thanks to the region's snowstorm.
The extra time to think about the move might have swayed Councilman Edward Middlebrooks (R-Glen Burnie), who had been leaning in favor of the amendment but said he changed his mind in the face of public testimony opposed to the measure.
The amendment, to the Annapolis Neck Small Area Plan for future development, would have authorized local developer Michael DeStefano to build 240 condominiums, 120,000 square feet of retail space and 60,000 square feet of office space on the property. To sweeten the deal, DeStefano offered to keep 24 acres of pristine woodland intact.
But many of those hostile to the amendment argued that the development would interfere with similar plans for the nearby Parole Town Center. They also said it would worsen traffic problems in the area.
Supporters of the amendment countered that it would at least create some affordable housing in Annapolis for working professionals. The alternative, DeStefano warned, is the construction of expensive townhouses and single-family homes.
Both sides testified for several hours at a public hearing Feb. 3; before Monday's meeting, Middlebrooks told his colleagues that he wouldn't support the measure. After more battle Monday night, Councilman Bill Burlison (D-Odenton), who introduced the amendment along with Councilman Edward R. Reilly (R-Crofton), raised the white flag.
"There didn't appear to be adequate support for it," Burlison said after the meeting.
The amendment can be resurrected at the next council meeting, on March 3, but Burlison didn't want to guess whether that would happen.
Middlebrooks was more pessimistic: "I think for all practical purposes that particular amendment will not come before the County Council," he said.
Meanwhile, the project's fiercest foe, Councilwoman Barbara Samorajczyk (D-Annapolis), was exulting. "It's one of those miracles," she said.
It's Slots -- or Else
At the same time the County Council was hotly debating development, another large drama was unfolding at the Annapolis City Council, which held a public hearing on a resolution expressing the council's "concern" over a General Assembly bill legalizing slot machines in Maryland.
Former Del. C. Richard D'Amato, who is now lobbying against the bill, led those who testified against slot machines, warning the council that "we should worry about tarnishing the reputation of our capital city."
Other speakers, such as Byron Brought, the senior pastor at Calvert United Methodist Church, were even less subtle.
"Slot machines are predatory and addictive," he said. "They are consistently associated with a wide variety of social hazards."
Also starring in the debate was Del. Herb McMillan (R-Anne Arundel), who used to sit on the council and ran against Mayor Ellen O. Moyer (D) in the race for the city's top office. (He unseated D'Amato in the 2002 elections.)
"I don't want casinos in Annapolis," McMillan said. But "right now, as proposed, the governor's bill does not impact the city of Annapolis. If you're going to pass a resolution telling us what not to do, perhaps you should tell the governor what to cut, or what taxes to raise."