After listening to three hours of sometimes heated testimony, Baltimore's Planning Commission deferred for at least four weeks any decision on a developer's plan to acquire two lanes of Redwood Street so that he can build a 34-story office tower.
The commissioners followed the recommendation of city planning director Ernest Freeman, who said both the proponents and opponents of the project made "compelling" arguments but that neither side presented a strong enough case to sway him one way or the other.
He recommended that the commissioners take more time to digest information about the case and meet again in December.
Leonard Attman, who heads the group that owns three buildings at the southeast corner of Redwood and Charles streets, wants to acquire twolanes of Redwood Street to provide a construction site large enough to build the office tower.
Opponents included owners of neighboring properties and others, including architect George Pillorge, who helped design the original public spaces in nearby Charles Center. They said Redwood Street is an important thoroughfare and that selling part of it might enrich the developer but would serve no public benefit. They also warned that it would add to traffic congestion.
"I think the city is embarking on a very dangerous course when it will even contemplate selling a major public thoroughfare without a public benefit, and that's the issue here," said Ira C. Cooke, an attorney representing some of the opponents.
In recommending a deferral, Mr. Freeman said he did not understand why opponents are so strongly in favor of keeping Redwood Street the way it is. "That street doesn't really work anyway," he said. "I wonder what we are trying to preserve."
At the same time, he said, he realizes there is still strong opposition to the project and that he doesn't feel comfortable making a recommendation without more study.
He said he particularly would like more information about how the project would be financed, who the tenants would be and whether the developer could reach "middle ground" with the opponents.