Several proposals likely to be opposed

June 05, 1991|By Edward Gunts

While most of the recommendations in the new strategic plan for downtown Baltimore are likely to face little opposition, more than a few could spark controversy -- especially those restricting redevelopment of or vehicular access to privately held property.

Other suggestions, such as a proposal to expand the state's light-rail system by building a cross-town line along Pratt Street, may face opposition because of their high cost.

City officials say such ideas were included in the final report not because they had unanimous support but because they were considered worth further study.

"Not everyone agreed with every finding or suggestion," said Walter Sondheim Jr., senior adviser to the Greater Baltimore Committee and chairman of the citizens group that prepared the report.

"We left some of these things in anyhow because we thought they had important and valuable potential and warranted more intensive investigation than we were in a position to give."

Many of the most controversial suggestions involved transportation, including the proposed replacement of the elevated portions of the Jones Falls Expressway with an at-grade boulevard.

With the expressway taken down, planners suggested, the city could create an attractive area for new development.

Other transportation-oriented recommendations were to "find a way to have two-way traffic and curb parking on Charles Street as an enhancement to its retail and pedestrian character" and to "divert commuter traffic away from residential areas on St. Paul, Calvert and Paca streets to the perimeter of downtown."

Other ideas were to:

* Give tax credits or waivers of transfer taxes to owner-occupants in the city as an incentive to buy and live downtown.

* Investigate new tax law provisions to increase tax on vacant properties and decrease or phase in taxes on rehabilitated properties.

* Eliminate the Block, the adult entertainment area on Baltimore Street, without dispersing its activities to other, inappropriate areas.

* Change zoning in Mount Vernon to levels more compatible with the district. Eliminate out-of-character and objectionable uses.

* Restrict through-traffic on residential and historic or picturesque streets in Mount Vernon by making streets two-way with curb parking on both sides. Consider timing traffic signals to slow traffic.

* Change building-code requirements that act as disincentives to residential rehabilitation.

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