Group asks bank to cut lending near bay
President says proposal would hurt business
Members of a south county activist group pressed a local bank last
night to restrict lending money for projects in undeveloped land near
the Chesapeake Bay, saying the move would enhance its image as an environmentally
At the annual meeting of Severn Bancorp Inc., parent company of Severn
Savings Bank, members of the South Arundel Citizens for Responsible
Development presented two resolutions that they said will preserve
the bay's critical area, the designated area within 1,000 feet of the
Don Avery, president of SACReD, presented the first resolution to roughly
200 shareholders, saying the bank must stop extending loans for residential
and commercial development projects in the bay's critical area land.
The second resolution, he said, states that the bank must review its
financial support for developments in the critical area, and "extricate" itself
from any such loan arrangements within the next year.
Severn Savings Bank has made an effort to protect the bay with a "green
roof" at its new Westgate Circle headquarters and by donating
between $5 and $10 to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation when customers
open one of four different checking accounts.
Alan Hyatt, president of Severn Bancorp, said he was willing to discuss
the group's resolutions, but couldn't imagine voting in favor of them
because they're too broadly written.
He said the proposals would cut deeply into the bank's lending opportunities,
particularly for waterfront homes. He also said they would include
renovation property within the city of Annapolis.
But Mr. Hyatt said he wants to continue a dialogue with SACReD in the
hopes that both parties can find some "middle ground."
"It's a legitimate group that has an agenda that is responsible," he
said. "We would like to hear their point of view and hope they
will listen to us."
One of the reasons SACReD chose the bank was because it learned that
Severn provided a loan for Elks Landing, a 31-home project in Deale.
Its developer began grading without a permit.
Mr. Hyatt said he doesn't condone such an action, but said the bank
can't "control a borrower."
Mike Shay, vice president of the group, said the bay's critical area
is the "best of the best and the last of the last," adding
that Severn must take a leadership role in preserving that land.
"We really need to make history here as a bank," he said.
Last night's presentation was part of SACReD's "first shareholder
advocacy campaign" to save the bay's most sensitive areas. The
group bought 100 shares in the bank early this year for the sole purpose
of presenting its resolutions at the annual shareholders meeting. SACReD,
however, missed the deadline for the resolutions, so they couldn't
be voted on. Severn Savings invited the group to speak at the meeting
SACReD was the primary group that led a grass-roots effort against
a planned Safeway in Deale and was a key player in stopping development
on the 477-acre parcel that became Franklin Point Park. It also sends
disadvantaged children to outdoor camps.
Overall, Mr. Avery said he was pleased with the meeting and hopes to
meet with Mr. Hyatt by next month to discuss the issues.
"We really want this to get out there," he said.
Published April 26, 2007, The
Capital, Annapolis, Md.