Crystal Spring Farm is a beautiful 111-acre undeveloped area off of Forest Drive and Spa Road in Annapolis. With over 80 acres of forest, it is the largest remaining forested area on the Annapolis Peninsula. Many of the trees are over two-and-a-half feet wide. Prior to 2006, the area was part of the Anne Arundel County Greenways Master Plan. The area is home to 222 species of birds, the second-highest total in central Anne Arundel County (only Sandy Point State Park has more). Only a quiet, country dirt lane passes through this peaceful landscape, the last best place in Annapolis.
A massive mixed-use development is being proposed at CS Farm. The project would have a footprint of 67 acres, three times the size of Parole Towne Centre, and would include:
• A large Continuing Care Retirement Center (CCRC)
• An 80-room Inn and Spa
• 362 age-restricted “senior” housing units
• 126 non-age-restricted town homes
• A supermarket
• A shopping center with 120,000 sq. feet of retail space.
The project would destroy 49 acres of contiguous forest on site and would severely degrade and fragment the remaining woodland. Traffic will increase, and schools will become even more over-crowded than they already are. Deer will be forced onto surrounding lands, leading to increased traffic collisions. Water quality in Crab Creek and South River will become more polluted.
Beginning in late 2004, the owners of CS Farm petitioned the City of Annapolis to annex the property and the adjacent Masque Farm, a horse farm and riding school. Combined, the properties total more than 180 acres. The City approved the annexation in February, 2006 with the understanding that it would be developed and with the condition that once development plans were approved, a conservation easement would be placed on a portion of the Masque Farm. The original development concept at that time entailed 3-5-acre “Farmettes” as part of an age-restricted development for seniors. Since that time, the project has evolved into the current massive mixed-use planned development.
In order for the developers to be eligible for plan approval, they must meet the requirements of the Forest Conservation Act, under which the city currently has no implementing ordinance. The City of Annapolis is developing a new ordinance under this statute, which when approved, would set the requirements for the developers. The developers have submitted their Forest Conservation Plan (FCP), but are currently revising it because it failed to meet the Planning Commission’s requirements. Final approval of the FCP will depend on the outcome of this process and as of November, 2013, still appears to be some months away. In addition, the city must pass a Forest Conservation Act ordinance that specifies the requirements developers must meet in order to comply with the FCA in Annapolis. This may happen in early 2014. Once an FCP is approved and and FCA ordinance is passed, however, the way will be clear for the city to approve the developers’ plans.
Mayor Josh Cohen has been a major supporter of the Crystal Spring development concept and is on record saying that he likes the project. Mayor-elect Mike Pantelides has stated that he will push for a major downsizing to a sensible plan and believes that downtown store fronts should be filled before jumping into another major development on Forest Drive. In some speeches, he has stated that he would even “stop the project”.