I AM WRITING in response to the Nov. 30 Sun editorial, "Little risk, big windfall," and the many other articles and editorials regarding the proposed Inner Harbor East hotel.
The Citizens Planning and Housing Association is a 56-year-old, city-wide nonprofit organization with members throughout Baltimore and the region. Historically, CPHA has not become involved in specific land use and development issues. However, we now feel compelled to speak out against the approval process for the proposed amendment to the Inner Harbor East urban renewal plan.
CPHA has asked the City Council to delay its vote six-to-eight weeks until Baltimore citizens have had the opportunity to participate in a process where all of the key issues receive adequate examination.
A project of the scale and with the amount of proposed public funding should be subject to the highest level of public scrutiny and not rushed through City Council in a matter of weeks. We are concerned that there has not been adequate involvement of the relevant communities or adequate disclosure of details of the project.
The current urban renewal plan evolved out of a comprehensive design process involving many community groups, an award-winning architecture and planning firm and millions of public dollars. We believe it is wrong to amend the current urban renewal plan without the same thoughtful process.
This project represents a large investment that Baltimore will make in its Empowerment Zone. The East Harbor Village Center is a new local governance structure for this part of the city. Representatives from that center or members of the general public have not had an opportunity to understand the economic development options for the site.
No one knows what the agreement stipulates as to the city's and developers' obligations. A process which truly engages the public requires full disclosure of all components of the development plan. Public understanding of the financing of the hotel should precede any approval that would put this zoning change in place.
We have encouraged the City Council to move to delay the votes on bills 535 and 539. We believe a delay is a fair solution that respects the planning process established by the city. It will also reassure the community that its interests are treated seriously.
The writer is CPHA president.
Pub Date: 12/04/97