Baltimore's Planning Commission has at last conceded what urban planners have known for decades: Promises of tax revenue can never be the sole concern in urban development conflicts.
The current conflict, which had been languishing in the commission for almost a year, was whether to endorse three city council bills to allow developer Leonard Attman to buy one lane of Redwood Street and build a $90 million office tower at the southeast corner of Redwood and Charles. The project was plagued by controversy from the start -- primarily because it asks the city to sell public land to a private developer for purely private purposes, but also because the sale risks altering the ambience of the area and threatens traffic congestion and parking problems as well. All this comes in exchange for promises of new jobs and $2 million a year in property taxes -- promises that might not be fulfilled if the project doesn't live up to the developer's expectations.
The commission's decision to give the council bills an "unfavorable report" judiciously distinguishes between the need for development and the need for appropriate development -- taking into account the quality of the city as a whole, and not just the revenues that might accrue from an individual project. We trust the City Council will heed the commission's advice and reject the bills as soon as it returns from summer recess.