Excerpt from Capital Gazette:
The top historic preservation official in Annapolis resigned Monday, a week after the election of a new mayor who challenged the city’s policy on protecting its historic buildings.
Lisa Craig, chief of historic preservation since 2010, submitted her resignation to planning and zoning director Pete Gutwald.
“I am very unclear as to the incoming administration’s understanding and appreciation of (the preeminence of historic assets),” Craig said Wednesday.
Craig was a key figure in the dispute with mayor-elect Gavin Buckley, who takes office next month.
Buckley challenged the city’s authority to require a permit for a large mural painted on the front of his restaurant, Tsunami. The business is located in a 19th-century building.
Craig and the city maintained her office had the power to oversee the mural, calling it a substantive change to the building exterior and not just paint.
The courts agreed and Buckley was ordered to seek a retroactive permit. The city approved the permit and the mural by artist Jeff Huntington remains.
Craig said the incident weighed into her decision to seek new opportunities.
“The truth of the whole unfortunate process with Mr. Buckley — (the mural) was approved and it would have likely been approved,” she said. “But this was important to him, and I understand his viewpoint.”
Craig said she had not heard from the Buckley transition team nor from incoming Alderwoman Elly Tierney, whose Ward 1 covers the Historic District.
Buckley is out of the country and could not be reached for comment. His campaign manager Scott Travers said Buckley repeatedly identified himself as a preservationist during the campaign. Tierney disputed that she has not reached out to Craig.
“We have not shared the same sense of urgency on certain Historic District issues but I respect all of the work she has done with Weather it Together,” she wrote in a message.
Tireney added that she invited Craig to present her findings to the Ward One Resident’s Association when she served as president.
Both Tierney and Buckley hosted a historic preservation roundtable discussion on Nov. 3, when the two were still candidates.
“When I was first hired under Cohen admin, historic preservation was very important. It was very important under the Pantelides administration,” Craig said. “I don’t feel different about the residents and property owners … but I’m not clear on the (incoming) administration’s approach.”
Nov. 28 will be Craig’s last day with the city.
As chief of historic preservation, Craig was responsible for preserving and maintaining the city’s character within the Historic District. The district was created in 1965 and encompasses much of the city’s the Colonial-era footprint, with landmarks such as the State House, St. Ann’s Church and scores of historic residences, townhouses and mansions.. It is a National Historic Landmark.
Craig was instrumental in bringing the Keeping History Above Water conference to the city and leading the Weather It Together initiative. Craig and the Weather It Together team have been working on a plan that details how to mitigate damage from flooding and sea-level rise.
The plan has been drafted, Craig said, and will be ready to present to the new council in December.
She will seek new opportunities based on her experience with Weather It Together and preserving historic towns threatened by sea level rise, she said. There is no immediate job offers she is pursuing.
Historic Preservation Commission chairwoman Sharon Kennedy read a statement regarding Craig’s service during the commission meeting Tuesday night.
“She is without a doubt one of the most-hard working public servants I have ever encountered,” Kennedy said. “I simply cannot tell you the number of emails I have received from her on her ‘days off’ or at 5:30 a.m. as she began her day with an early morning walk.”
Craig and Kennedy were leaders of the failed effort to update the city’s central preservation law, which regulates building changes within the 50-year-old historic district. Residents objected to changes that would have made it easier to demolish neglected buildings. The changes would have also allowed the city to protect landmarks and Craig to review certain applications for project approval. City Council withdrew the drafted legislation in April 2016.
Kennedy said she spoke with Gutwald, and he has initiated the process to search for Craig’s replacement.
“I wish her all the best,” Gutwald said. “She will be sorely missed.”