Developers may turn city into a tacky, empty theme park...

Letters to the Editor

July 15, 1999

Developers may turn city into a tacky, empty theme park

Recent stories concerning the fate of three beautiful and historic buildings on East Redwood Street in the downtown business district should make every Baltimorean ashamed ("Building bought as garage site for sale by city," July 7.)

Baltimore has become the place for developers to demolish the 100-year-old building of their choice and construct the parking lot or unwanted hotel of their dreams.

No other city in the nation takes such a provincial and ignorant attitude toward its own history and culture.

From New York to Seattle, historic preservation has become a cornerstone of economic growth. Old office buildings are becoming apartment buildings. Parking garages are built less often and mass transit is making a comeback.

But Baltimore still seems strangely stuck on the outdated "radiant city" idea of glass towers and garages for miles.

The only thing Baltimore has to offer over other cities is its history and architectural splendors. That's it.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, the city paid some attention to this fact, and preservation successes were great. But since then, the people in City Hall and at the Baltimore Development Corp. (BDC) have given suburban developers free rein.

If Mr. J. Brodie and the folks at the BDC wish to live in an Orwellian suburb, I suggest they move to Columbia and leave the old buildings here alone.

If Baltimoreans don't stop the demolition craze and protect historic structures such as those in the 100 block of East Redwood Street, then they'll get what they deserve: A city that looks like a cross between Detroit and a tacky theme park.

Richard Chambers Glen Burnie

Governor should follow Gore's lead and stop sprawl

It was refreshing to read Merrill Goozner's Opinion Commentary article "Gore gambles by linking sprawl to urban problems" (July 8). I applaud Vice President Al Gore's proposed national policies for stopping sprawl. If only state and local leaders would be as environment-friendly.

In recent decades Baltimore has lost much of its population due to sprawl. With endless rows of strip malls and townhomes replacing trees and fields, people can easily leave the cities. If the governor wants to rebuild Maryland's cities, he should deter sprawl and push for urban re-development.

Tax incentives are given to urban developers to promote re-development. But, as Mr. Goozner points out, all developers get tax breaks. If suburban developers can get the same incentives, new urban breaks do nothing to stem sprawl.

Smart Growth was a big part of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's re-election campaign. But many acres of undeveloped land continue to be destroyed.

Mr. Glendening who should take a few cues from the vice president.

Dana Krauss Parkville

To stop suburban sprawl, eliminate building subsidies

Thanks to The Sun for Merrill Goozner's article "Gore gambles by linking sprawl to urban problems." I agree with Mr. Goozner that opponents of sprawl need a better message for voters than vouchers and tax breaks for the inner city.

Why not solve this problem from the standpoint of the dwindling countryside? Eliminate the home mortgage interest deduction on new homes built on arable land. This would prevent building on good agricultural lands.

I see no reason why homebuilding on arable land should be subsidized. The downside seems minimal, except that banks speculating on rural land would take a hit (what a shame). So would farmers who wish to cash out.

But farmers who will farm until their last breath will be delighted when the price of agricultural land begins to drop.

As Mr. Goozner suggests, you can stop sprawl by cutting sprawl subsidies. Whether the electorate agrees to do this will determine whether this nation produces food or highways.

Paul Schlilz Baltimore

To cut traffic congestion, limit vehicle registrations

Most people think highway congestion can be solved by building new roads and widening old ones. But I think there are just too many vehicles.

It's time to tackle the problem through a moratorium on additional vehicle registrations, except for vehicles bought in from out-of-state. Vehicle registrations should be like liquor licenses -- where the number is fixed based on some formula and new registrations are issued only to replace retired registrations.

Obviously, this suggestion would displease some people and businesses, but it would have positive effects.

Rush-hour beltway stagnation would not get worse. The number of young drivers would be limited, because parents would be less likely to give their second car to their teen-agers and buy a new one themselves. It would not become any more difficult to find a parking spot in a garage or in your own neighborhood.

It is time to set limits on the vehicle population.

Philip D. Retchless Baltimore

Tench Tilghman School is on the way up, again

I take issue with The Sun's criticism of Tench Tilghman Elementary School ("State OKs reform at 53 schools," July 1).

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