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This week the Annapolis Planning Commission will hold the first of possibly three public hearings related to the proposed The Village at Providence Point development.
The commission will hear from leaders from National Lutheran Communities and Services, including former CEO Larry Bradshaw, about the proposal to build a 350-unit senior living community near the intersection of Forest Drive and Spa Road. If the commission votes to approve the project, it could bring to an end one of the most contentious development fights in recent memory in Annapolis.
Bradshaw will kick off the meeting followed by presentations by experts on stormwater management, forestry and retention. He said he anticipates two additional meetings in January would be needed for presentations on design, traffic, landscape architecture and other aspects of the project.
Gerald Winegrad — a former state senator and leader of the community opposition group Stop Crystal Spring, referencing the name the development used to be called — will be offering testimony. Staff from the Annapolis Department of Planning and Zoning will also make comments.
For more than a decade, the Maryland-based nonprofit ministry has sought to build a senior living community on the 175-acre tract of land.
National Lutheran Communities and Services is a nonprofit, faith-based ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. It is made up of the Delaware-Maryland, Metropolitan Washington D.C. and Virginia synods and serves people of all beliefs. The Lutheran group has retirement communities in Maryland and Virginia.
The project has changed dramatically since it was first proposed.
An early proposal — when the development was called The Village at Crystal Spring — featured 500 housing units, a shopping center, a grocery store and a hotel. After facing significant community opposition, a Connecticut-based developer left the project and National Lutheran announced it was dropping the mixed-use, commercial elements to focus solely on the retirement community.
“A cluster of opponents coalesced into a formidable and well-funded juggernaut holding rallies and protests with hundreds of citizens from all walks of life and political persuasions,” Winegrad wrote in a column in The Capital on Friday. “We were successful in blocking this project with the help of thousands of citizens fed up with the over-development of this area.”
In July, just before announcing his retirement, Bradshaw reached an agreement with Winegrad and Stop Crystal Spring on several compromises, which was one of the last barriers to allowing the project to finally move forward. It has broad support from residents, environmental groups and elected officials. Mayor Gavin Buckley has repeatedly said he would only support the project so long as the compromises proposed by Winegrad are adopted.
Winegrad had pushed for changes in four areas: making road and intersection changes to improve traffic flow; a forest conservation plan that reduces tree clearing to 27 acres and ensures 100% of cleared trees would be replanted on-site; installation of a robust stormwater management system, including rain gardens; and no future development beyond the initial build.
National Lutheran has already begun marketing units for the development, which is a requirement from the Maryland Department of Aging before shovels can hit the ground, Bradshaw said. A website for the project notes the development could open in 2024.
That’s an aspirational goal, Bradshaw said, and still contingent upon the Annapolis Planning Commission approving the project.
“I think we are pretty close,” he said. “The Village of Providence Point will certainly be a great neighbor to the city of Annapolis and a great partner to a lot of the health care providers in the area in addition to providing quality jobs.”