Citizens have learned they shouldn't trust city or...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

June 20, 1999

Citizens have learned they shouldn't trust city or developers

The Sun's editorial "Not in anyone's back yard" (June 14) took communities to task for NIMBYism.

The paper's effort to teach a civics lesson about vigorous debate is appreciated, as is the point that abandoning discussion is not in the interests of the community. But perhaps those points should be directed toward developers and the city.

In the case of the Wyndhan hotel, for instance, as The Sun has often noted, a partnership of Inner Harbor communities and city officials spent years preparing long-range plans for acceptable development in that neighborhood.

However, as soon as a politically connected developer with money wanted to build something contrary to that plan, the city rather cavalierly discarded the plan.

This highhandedness outraged many who did not live in the neighborhood (and so are not NIMBYs), and would have no objection to a hotel that was consistent with the accepted plan.

In my neighborhood, the community held many meetings and offered several alternatives to the city's plan to place the new Northern District police station in a wooded area. The city went ahead with its original plans despite almost universal opposition from community groups.

Soon environmental concerns about contaminated soil slowed the project and resulted in cost overruns.

The excellent stories about the Chesapeake Bay in last Sunday's Sun ("Tangle of trouble stifles life in bay," June 13) emphasized that we can't protect the bay while continuing to add people to its watershed and eliminate trees, wetlands and riparian buffers.

Why, then, cut forests along the Jones Falls to build housing developments?

Do we really need to make the city look like the suburbs?

We have a paternalistic bureaucracy that thinks it knows best. We have elected officials who seem to believe the only way to save Baltimore is to sell as much of it as possible. We have developers who know that money buys influence.

Recent history suggests that these groups can't be trusted to represent the best interests of citizens and the environment or even keep their part of a good faith compromise.

The lesson the communities have learned is, "Nip a project in the bud or be steamrollered by the establishment."

Jim Emberger, Baltimore

Preserving communities isn't knee-jerk NIMBYism

The Sun's editorial "Not in anyone's back yard" characterizes community opposition to development as NIMBYism. I disagree.

Opposition to development seems automatic these days because the current zoning laws are not adequate: They are not addressing the traffic, pollution, loss of open space and farmland and crowded schools that are destroying communities in the name of economic development.

The governor is talking about Smart Growth, but the local zoning regulations are antiquated. In Baltimore County, virtually all requests for special exceptions in RC zones are granted.

The sort of exception that allowed the Har Sinai complex, for instance, was designed for local churches/synagogues to serve the local communities, not for the mega-institutions that now go under the name of "house of worship."

People are fighting inappropriate development to save their communities. The Sun should be applauding the communities for demonstrating that they care.

Deirdre M. Smith, Lutherville

Huge complexes aren't appropriate development

The Sun's June 14 editorial criticizes "NIMBYism" and mentions a synagogue in Worthington Valley, obviously the building proposed by Har Sinai.

The point The Sun seems to miss is that we welcome appropriate building in our back yards, but not huge institutions that will deplete the water and resources of an RC-5 zoning area.

Rather than making blanket statements and judgments about proposed developments, The Sun ought to consider their impact on surrounding areas, as well as the intent of zoning which allows community churches and synagogues.

RC-5 zoning was never intended to allow something like the Har Sinai complex, a 64,000-square-foot building with the largest day care facility in Baltimore County and banquet facilities for 350 people.

We would welcome development of housing permitted in RC-5 zoning, or a small community church or synagogue like others in the area. However, we oppose a huge institution which will attract hundreds of people to a rural area that lacks the resources to cope with them.

Howard K. Berg, Owings Mills

A development story that's repeated again and again

The Sun's article detailing the explosive growth of Frederick County ("Frederick acts to slow growth," June 14) was yet another waste of time, ink and paper.

How often has this sort of article been recycled, substituting the last county's name for yet another whose once pastoral countryside has been replaced with highways, strip malls and townhouses?

As usual, families complain to the county, the county complains to developers and developers simply move on to the next meadow.

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