Rent boost to be eased at markets

December 10, 1992|By Michael A. Fletcher | Michael A. Fletcher,Staff Writer

Responding to an outcry by merchants, Mayor Kurt L Schmoke has told the head of the Municipal Market Association to reduce a planned rent increase for vendors at the six city-run markets.

"You can expect that the recommendations will be reworked and fee increases reduced as [the mayor] recommended," said City Solicitor Neal M. Janey, who read a statement from Mr. Schmoke at yesterday's Board of Estimates meeting.

Harry T. Woods Sr., interim director of the market administration, last month proposed steep rent increases for market vendors.

The increase was aimed at eliminating much of the $625,000-a-year subsidy the city provides to maintain the markets.

The proposed increase would have doubled rents for many market merchants.

Several dozen merchants packed the Board of Estimates meeting yesterday to dramatize their opposition to the proposed increase.

"An increase like they're contemplating is likely to put weaker merchants out of business," said David Borinsky, an attorney representing market merchants.

"The result is highly likely to be the closure of one or more, and indeed possibly all of the markets."

The markets affected by the proposed increases are Belair, Northeast, Cross Street, Hollins, Broadway and Lafayette.

Lexington Market is run by its own board and is not affected by the proposed changes.

In a letter sent to merchants earlier this month, Mr. Woods said the increased rents would more closely reflect what it costs to run each market. Currently, rents cover only $1 million of the $1.62 million it costs the city to operate the markets.

Mr. Borinsky said the city could save money by placing the markets under the management of an independent board.

"Professional management would also give the city a clear picture of what if any subsidies the markets in fact need," he said.

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