Forum on city's future stresses heritage, open space

May 19, 1999|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Preserving Baltimore's architectural heritage and open space were high on the list of concerns aired at a meeting on the city's future yesterday.

A diverse group of 150 residents turned up at Roland Park Elementary and Middle School to discuss PlanBaltimore, the Planning Department's draft comprehensive plan.

It was the second of two meetings held this month to gather public comment.

Charles C. Graves III, the city planning director who led the two-year process that resulted in the draft, mainly listened to people's views yesterday.

Speakers were given three minutes to offer their thoughts on the draft, subtitled "A Global City of Vibrant Neighborhoods."

"There's an over-reliance on demolition," declared Doug Armstong, a Charles Village resident who challenged housing and planning officials to think about the implications of demolishing old rowhouses and neighborhoods. One or two other speakers mentioned current plans to clear and redevelop part of the city's west side as shortsighted.

Some thought the plan needed a stronger environmental punch. As Pat Lane put it, "Don't touch the natural areas we have left!"

Baltimore's poor air quality and "brownfields" -- abandoned industrial sites that may contain toxic wastes -- were on the mind of Terry Harris, 38, of the Clean-up Coalition. He said demolition of buildings can spread harmful dust particles through the air.

A new Neighborhood Planning Program, designed to make the planning process more inclusive, raised a question for Mereida Goodman, president of the Greater Northwest Community Coalition: "Are we being asked to do the planning department's work?"?

Similar criticism came from Democratic mayoral candidate Carl Stokes, who said before the meeting that the Neighborhood Planning Program places "too much responsibility [on] community organizations instead of paid planning professionals."

Charles Duff, an architectural expert, criticized PlanBaltimore's "provincial" air and said it had no references to how cities such as Boston, Philadelphia and Cleveland handled similar problems.

Across the spectrum of opinion, they all seemed to agree on one point.

"We need to do what we say we're going to do, and not just put words into a plan," said David Tufaro, a Roland Park civic leader, drawing applause.

Pub Date: 5/19/99

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