Annapolis Market House … skimming the political surface

Election season is quickly approaching, which means Joshy-boy has been more active on the social media front. Something tells me it’s at the encouragement of his campaign manager. Last week, the Mayor posted a pic on Facebook along with “Trying out new, more vibrant colors on the Market House. What do you think?” He also posted a pic of construction, “Ricardo and Francisco breaking ground today to lay new pipes and electric for the new Amsterdam Falafelshop in the Market House!” We asked if this was the only vendor requiring work but he didn’t respond. We think his campaign manager needs to tell him about Instagram.

Anyhow, things seem to be moving along with the Market House, which is great news. I don’t think anyone will disagree with that. And if JoCo wants to keep his prime parking spot in the Hillman garage, he better darn well get that thing opened before we head to the polls in November. He knows that. His camp knows that. And I think collectively, the City wants (and needs) that.

But at what cost? We got this email from the guy who’s heading up the Market House contracts, and who also happens to be a part owner of the Falafel franchise group, but that’s a whole different subject. This was attached to his email. Personally, I’m not in love with the colors or design. But I also get that Sally is the resident-artist-contractor for the City of Annapolis, so she’s gonna get the work either way. And the opposition to the proposal will only really delay the process… so how does that really benefit anyone? Her argument, however, is a little off-base:

Are we supposed to expect quality vendors to risk their livelihoods while not allowing them to advertise and compete in today’s marketplace? These businesses will not survive if their potential customers can’t even tell that MH is open. Who knows how long before it sits vacant again.

Maybe Sally and Chuck didn’t do their homework, but the folks who are opening shop in the Market House have quite a few other business ventures that put food on their tables, a roof over their head, and clothes on their back. Have you seen those HB Properties sign around town? The seafood and oyster bar, the coffee, the corned beef – yes. Ten bucks says their to-go bags will say “Land and Sea.” The falafel stand – we already covered that. Not sure about the organic market, but they have a place in Severna Park that must be doing okay that they’re able to afford the space in the Market House. And the gelato people… well… they’ve obviously survived since they were last around town. So if you’re going to try and get people to support you, be honest and upfront. Please.

So next week on the 14th, they’ll have the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) Public Hearing. Attend if you’d like. Or attend to watch what could be a great show! It’ll be a genuine display of small-town politics as it’s literally the day after the new Ward 1 Alderman, Joe Budge, gets sworn in. His wife is head of the HPC. All the articles say that Mr. Budge wants the Market House open. I know that Ms. Kennedy also shares that same vision. But I’ve also seen her testify at City Council meetings regarding the integrity of the HPC. Given the amount of work Art at Large has already done in the City, I sure hope they’ve done their homework and don’t make complete donkey-hiney’s of themselves. This should be interesting…

Stuck in the middle with (or without) you.

Nothing says blogger like sitting at a bar, drinking loads of water and eating soup on a wet, cold night after spending a few hours at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts for a riveting Ward One Residents Association meeting.

I joined the club months ago, and once they cashed my check, I’ve been trying to get to a meeting. And tonight, I did it! (yes, please, I’ll take that gold star) And man, what a great first meeting to attend. (And to think I was just going to see if the nickname of Ward One Whiners was rightfully earned… which, I have to admit, was not really the case. Most of the old(er) ladies were quite pleasant and enjoyable.)

If you follow me on Facebook, which is most likely the case considering about 75% of my traffic comes through the book, you may have seen the status update about the future of Castlebay Irish Pub. And like many of the people I frantically texted, you were probably a little flabbergasted, much like I was.

But why? Well, because it seems the fine folks of the newest “i’m gonna bring culture to dta”-themed restaurant on Main Street apparently have plans for a(nother) new restaurant- a speak-easy, comfort food joint with “gourmet food and a refined beverage list” to be located at 193 Main Street. With such specific information, I naturally turned to my next bff, Google, to help answer some questions. You know, that pretty obvious one of “what’s at 193 Main Street?” And do you know what my bff Google told me? Castlebay Irish Pub. So that’s where the question came from. And the answer, as far as I can tell, is no. Suffice it to say though, in my quest for responsible journalism, I think I found my new favorite go-to in this part of town. (I have my Uptown favorite and my Eastport favorite already.) The staff at Castlebay is awesome, they let me get on their wi-fi, the music was great and the food was surprisingly fantastic. I am now a loyal fan.

And here I sit at Castlebay, having finished the most delicious tomato bisque with spinach and ham+cheese sandwich, trying to finish this here post before my carriage turns back into a (rotten) pumpkin. (Because of course you always go somewhere when you hear it’s closing.) Whilst here, I wondered outside to take a call only to discover that Castlebay is actually at 193A Main Street and next door is 193B… a vacant storefront. So maybe this business owner just misspoke. Among other oversights spouted, the following phrases came out, “we know the importance of community” and “we work well with other businesses downtown.” But then again, even Forbes believes that many experts misspeak every now and again. The bigger issue is however, at the end of the day, I feel like Castlebay Irish Pub is going to be, if they are not already, just stuck in the middle. Hopefully, with you.

Heck, I’m a “gossip” blogger, sooooo…. take what you read here for what you’d like. I guess only time will tell and we hope you’ll join us for the ride. Just hold on tight and wear your seat belt (we don’t need the Annapolis PoPo writing any tickets) because I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s gonna be a bumpy one…

A dirty little secret about parking in downtown.

I’m probably going to get a ton of backlash for this. But since I haven’t been so great about posting on the blog, I thought I’d give my readers a treat.

You may have heard that starting August 20th, parking rates for the parking lots will increase. If not, our subjectively-tight-lipped friends at Eye on Annapolis wrote about the details here.

There are about 10-12 free, unmonitored parking spots in downtown Annapolis. Remember when I posted about the folks in Kingsport protesting the community garden because they didn’t want the poorfolk within a mile radius of their home? You may have guessed I had all this knowledge because I myself garden through Grow Annapolis. Down at the community garden outside the old rec center. And you were right.

Anyhow, for the last two months as I tend to my little plot, I’ve been watching the servers and bouncers at a waterfront restaurant park and skip across the street to work. I’ve watched mother after mother (and sometimes a dad) park their car in these spots and walk across the street to the playground they fought to keep. (I hope you see the irony behind that.) And I’ve watched the City of Annapolis parking enforcement officers drive right down Newman Street and not stop and ticket them once.

In good Chatter fashion, I chased one down to ask the question. Their response, “I’m not allowed to ticket this area.” In my mind, I’m thinking no freakin’ way. And as any good journalist would do, I made a follow up call the next day to the Transportation Office for the City of Annapolis. And I spoke with the lady (the Parking Manager) there. Her response, “We won’t ticket that area until the City tells us to.” Ummmm. Okay.

So there you have it. Happy Friday! Free parking in downtown Annapolis… and there are usually always parking spots available. Just about every time I drive by, there’s available parking.

If you aren’t so lucky… take the Circulator. I took it for the first time a week or so ago. What took me so long? I had to be inspired. What did it? A few days before, I received an email from Ima Nottelling with a pic attached….

 

Hey, I just met you and this is crazy…

Earlier, we told you we’re going to try and bring some fun and entertainment back to the blog. So to balance out today’s rather heavy post, we want to share with you some details about poor Gary’s incident last Friday.

We do love that people are comparing this to County Executive John Leopold’s discovery of him gettin’ it on in parking lots, but as we mentioned here, APD and County PoPo are quite different.

But we’re here to tell you the gossip the news isn’t reporting. Turns out, Gary and Carol weren’t just getting to know each other on a more intimate level in the back of his black Escalade, but they were also enjoying some tasty adult beverages and working on their portfolio to become the next John Holmes and Jenna Jameson.

Don’t ask me, I’ll never tell. So here’s my number, call me maybe?

 

Reading between the lines.

Whoa… how crazy have the last few days been? The Mayor is in Vegas attending a conference and it appears our City is falling apart. We have green water in Back Creek, home and car break ins, sexual assaults in alleys, people smoking pot on front porches downtown, and a man considered a person of interest in the disappearance of a woman while on holiday, doing inappropriate things in an Annapolis City garage. (We have our own ideas about what business they were heading to or coming from…)

Add to that a movie being filmed at State Circle in downtown Annapolis and the beginning of USNA Commissioning Week 2012 and you’ve got yourself enough small town craziness to last a while. Good thing our population is less than 40 thousand.

But alas, there are some serious issues going on over near the Safeway on Forest Drive.

To sum it up, the City of Annapolis has plans to put a community garden in a City park next to a City playground. The City owned land is located off Bywater Road and is situated between two neighborhoods: Kingsport of Annapolis, a neo-traditional community that offers coastal living with amenities that include a community pool with terrace, spa pool, and grilling area; fishing dock; putting green and playground areas; walking and biking trails; and Bywater Mutual Homes, a community home to qualified families of low and moderate income (HUD Section 8 and Section 236).

And it’s the end of the world to some residents of the Kingsport community much like it was the end of the world for Chris Stelzig and his followers when the City entertained a proposal to build a parking lot on Compromise Street. But unlike Stelzig, the fine folks who oppose the community garden aren’t PR gurus by day and therefore, are on the opposite end of the spectrum from being a word ninja. Don’t believe me? Check out this article and all the comments below it. (Note- it’s lengthy but full of passion. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.) .

The issue is that a community garden is included in the Capital Improvement Program for the City of Annapolis 2012-2017.  That along with the Market House improvements, road improvements, other park work, city vehicles, building maintenance, water treatment and a whole lot of other really exciting stuff.

The rumor mill tells me a garden was planned for this space all along, and they saw Grow Annapolis as being able to do all the work as opposed to the City. The garden was part of a long term plan for use of the land, along with the trees planted in the last few years. The opponents have also publicly attacked Grow Annapolis and questioned “who” they are at the last City Council meeting. You know, they’re the same group that did all the work for the downtown community garden and the one that works with the schools to create gardens. You can see all the no good they’re up to on their website.

But to clarify, the line item estimates $140,000 for this project. (Not the $170k some are claiming.) Seems like a lot of money to grow tomatoes, right? But if you read closer, you’ll notice that it’s in the design stage so the money will cover all the planning, designing, as well as infrastructure and so on. Accordingly, the document states: Design Stage: includes the development of any environmental documents, legal documents, construction plans and specifications, and a detailed construction budget. 

The proposed project, #378, is included in the long-term capital program. That being said, Many of these projects are subject to more careful scope definition and management review. These projects, generally identified via area plans or other planning activity, will be included in the capital budget in future years, depending on priorities, funding availability, and other considerations. They are listed in no particular order.

And continues on, This project will complete the development of the Kingsport Park, a 3-acre parcel donated as part of the Kingsport residential development. The project will provide a 10-car off-street parking area, pathway, linear field, security lighting, landscaping, and park sign. Recommended budget is approximately $140,000.

No where did I see anything about a chain link fence as some have claimed. They question the parking and say if it’s a community garden, then everyone can walk. Correct, to some degree. What if people from outside the immediate neighboring communities want to come play at the playground? I spent an hour there yesterday observing and there was no place for me to park so I parked illegally and hoped I didn’t get a ticket. What if I wanted to take children to the playground or host a pick up frisbee game on that sprawling piece of green space the opponents talk about? There is no place to park. The opponents have also stated that the Kingsport development “donated” the land to the City. I have interpreted the comments as implying that because it was originally their’s, they should still have control over it. And I’ll stop there after reminding them that the land was deeded to the City by the developer as part of the deal before any home was purchased.

There is so much more to this argument. But Annapolis Chatter has been told we’re too political and we’ve been encouraged to have more gossip focused posts, so we’re going to try and bring some more of that to you. As for the garden- I’ll let you decide for yourself. If you are so inclined, please consider writing and/or calling the Mayor and/or your Alderman and sharing your opinion. Here’s their contact info. I wrote mine and told them about my personal experience with community gardening. And if you’re in favor of seeing a community garden go into this area, please sign this petition. I did that, too.

I think I need to send City Council a post script reminding them that there has not been any indecent exposure down at the garden… yet!

Hollywood comes (back) to Annapolis

In high school, Walt Disney came to our school to film some parts of a movie. As students, we were offered the opportunity to be extras. Not really being an academian, I jumped at the opportunity. We missed class AND they paid us. (could explain a few things about my education) I ended up making a few extra bones because I had a speaking role… and after they didn’t include my six word line in the final cut, I gave up on my Hollywood dream. (I never really had that dream, but I was a little bitter.) So when a message came my way last week about a similar opportunity, I politely declined. There was no school to miss and I don’t think they were going to pay. After all, we’re in a recession.

Parts of a movie are being filmed right here in town- at the Annapolis Athletic Club and around the Eastport area. The best part? The PLOT. Had I known the movie was about “a straight-laced pharmacist’s uneventful life spirals out of control when he starts an affair with a trophy wife customer who takes him on a joyride involving sex, drugs and possibly murder” perhaps I would have considered it. Scandal and drama? I don’t really do murder (or drugs) and in fact, if you know me in real life, I don’t really do violence or crazy drunk women who try to fight, but a scandal of a pharmacist’s wife involving sex, drugs and rock-n-roll, sounds like just the thing a gossip blog would be all over. Instead, I’m just all over telling my readers to go check it out… and please bring back any juicy info!

Better Living Through Chemistry is rumored to be here for a few weeks… so if you’re looking for something fun to do or stalk around town, head over to Eastport. According to IMBD, Dame Judi Dench is cast in it. She was my favorite on the list. If someone could guarantee she was in town, I’d go hunt her down for a picture. But I wonder if the others are in town, too?

I know that Kevin Spacey is. Well, he’s staying in Edgewater and driving a black Range Rover, but he wasn’t listed on the casting list. He’s here for a few more months, so I guess there may be two movies being filmed in town? Keep your eyes peeled… and then please share! We could do a whole piece on scandals that occur when Hollywood comes to Annapolis. I have some stories, just need a few more… now go make it happen!

A whole heck of a lot of tidbits.

Last week’s Annapolis City Council meeting ran until 3:30 am. There were quite a few hot topics on the docket and a whole heck of a lot of people came out to speak. A great civics lesson for sure. It’s really encouraging to live in a town where so many people are active, concerned and involved in local government.

As you can imagine- there was a TON discussed. In short, the Council voted yes to the MOU for the garage. I’ve read pieces of Stelzig (he heads up the Save the Playground campaign) threatening legal action to stop the garage if necessary. My google research shows that Stelzig is a PR dude. Wonder if he offered his services for free to Cohen’s reelection campaign next go round in exchange for Cohen changing his vote to no? (Note: these are just questions I ask myself- I have no idea if it’s true.) If you’re part of the Twittersphere, (you should follow us) you may have seen Stelzig referenced as a word ninja. No description could be more accurate. The guy is good… but he still hasn’t convinced the Chatter that the garage should not be built. We’ve kept our ears open and eyes peeled and found out some VERY interesting things about the WORA, the HPC, the HAF, and so on. Another post to follow.

Like many, the Chatter is totally fascinated by this debate and will continue to watch as the drama unfolds. In fact, we received a message from another extremely successful PR genius from inside the Beltway, whom we really admire, that said, “The parking garage is going to make Annapolis more crowded and a more crowded Annapolis makes a more nasty Annapolis and is bad for returning tourism. Also, the parents are the big taxpayers.” I often don’t disagree with this guru since he’s usually spot on and pretty freakin’ smart, but I look forward to explaining all the moving parts of why the garage is actually good, and necessary, long term for the City of Annapolis. That’s how much we support the project.

Council also voted to allow TriRock to happen. And a few days later, a nice little piece arrived on the door telling us to be aware and plan ahead. It’s far more noticeable and informative than any other road closure notice I’ve ever received. The only problem- there are a lot of rental turnovers happening this month so the suckers moving in May 1 don’t know – Welcome to Annapolis!

The last topic of discussion at City Council was testimony about rezoning the the old Fawcett’s building right there at the water. Looks like something was done back in July 2011 so I’m a bit unclear why it’s happening again. Nonetheless, this was very interesting on many, many levels. (Again, another post to follow.) I wonder what tax breaks the building owners received while it has been zoned for maritime use only. This “article,” although not dated, implies that a chain restaurant (Ignite Restaurant Group?) wants to rent the building. We know that a prominent business man in town was approached by Hooters to help facilitate a move to downtown. Only a big chain would be able to afford the rent and make the necessary changes to convert it to a restaurant. Is this what we want? Agree wholeheartedly that something needs to go there, but ask the building owners what they’d charge for rent and then tell us who could afford it.

We also received a message about some discussion over at the mall. Folks inside the trenches were talking about Hooters actually coming to the Westfield Shopping Center. And a Four Season’s Grille (part of Monte Development Restaurant Group) going in where Austin Grille once was. Again, the Chatter is purely subjective news (and gossip in its true form) and we haven’t been able to validate any of these claims. (Because let’s be honest, who really talks to a blogger?) BUT we also heard little whispers from a seriously legitimate source of a restaurant going where Hell Point used to be…

And lastly, we wanted to share something with you. Yesterday, Eye on Annapolis posted a piece about all the things happening this weekend. EoA is an incredible source for information but they did forget one very special and meaningful event. About a month ago we strayed from the gossip in this post. In a beautiful mass yesterday, we said our final goodbyes to a very brave child who fought the most incredible fight. His courage made the front of the Capital and the Patch wrote this piece. He was an amazing child. I hope you’ll join the Aleph Bet Jewish Day School on Sunday, May 6th for their 5k Fun Run/Walk – RUN FOR JOEY – that will benefit the Sudo family. If you can’t participate, please consider a Trail Marker encouraging runners that will later be given to the family. It’s the cost of a decent dinner out in town.

A Jewish school helping out a Catholic family – sounds like the start of a bad joke. But the two are connected via one community organization- the Junior League of Annapolis. In my recent post about the organization, I stated that I feel like I got more out of my involvement than they did out of me. This is one of the lessons- both Joey’s mother and a race organizer are not just members, but also my friends. You can register here for the race.

So unlike all of us and the children of our community, Joey won’t get a chance to play on the downtown playground, whether it remains in its current location, gets rebuilt or gets moved. But Sunday we can come together as a community with our differences aside, and run (or walk) for a child who I know is running with us up above. Who knows, you may just hear some great chatter along the trail…