Commission approves renewal project

Plan to revitalize Charles Village heads to City Council for OK

September 15, 2001|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

An urban-renewal ordinance for the south side of Charles Village is headed for the Baltimore City Council after winning approval from the city Planning Commission on Thursday over vigorous objections of a recently established homeowner group in the North Baltimore neighborhood.

The designation of lower Charles Village as an urban-renewal zone is intended to attract economic investment in an area that has sagged in recent years and was supported by the Charles Village Community Benefits District, beginning with a series of public meetings early last year.

"We went out of our way to be inclusive and work with consultation from the community," Dan Klocke, the organization's executive director, said yesterday, a day after the Planning Commission's 6-1 vote.

But opponents of the plan warned that it would jeopardize the value and stability of the neighborhood. And Charles Rollins, a member of the Peabody Heights Resident Homeowners Alliance, criticized the Charles Village Benefits District as "erroneously holding itself out as a community organization with the right to speak for the community."

The proposed ordinance covers an area bounded by 27th Street to the north and 22nd Street to the south. Klocke said it would clear the way for new guidelines on design, land use, rehabilitation of historic structures and construction that would revitalize the area. No property acquisition is involved.

At Thursday's meeting, Peter E. Auchincloss, chairman of the Planning Commission, said that city urban-renewal plans had helped revive the now-flourishing neighborhoods of Canton and Federal Hill.

The urban-renewal plan received support from two Charles Village neighborhood associations, the Charles Village Civic Association and the South Charles Village Community Association. But it faced strenuous objection from members of the Peabody Heights Resident Homeowners Alliance.

The organization, established this year, draws its name from the original name for Charles Village. Only residential property-owners may belong. The group has about 40 members, and more than a dozen showed up Thursday to speak against the move.

Christian Wilson, the alliance's leader, and several other members protested that their group had been ignored and excluded from the urban-renewal process. When city officials asked if they were aware of the public meetings, this point was left unresolved, though after the meeting some acknowledged that they had attended the public meetings.

Commenting on the controversy, Klocke said, "Urban renewal has an unfortunate connotation, but we tried to make it clear that urban renewal has a different connotation today."

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