Residents want input in east-side renewal plan

April 30, 2002|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

While praising Baltimore's ambitious new project to redevelop the blighted east side, City Council members and residents of the targeted Middle East neighborhood voiced concerns about the plan last night as legislation enabling it to proceed was introduced.

Pat Tracey, president of Save Middle East Action Committee, said residents want to ensure they are included in the process of overseeing the plan - a concern echoed by City Council President Sheila Dixon. "We want to make sure the community is represented," Tracey said. "We don't want to be uprooted and have nowhere to go."

The O'Malley administration is seeking authority to acquire 3,300 properties to make way for a proposed biotech park and hundreds of units of new and rehabilitated housing. Legislation authorizing the acquisition was introduced last night. The planning commission, as well as the council, must approve it.

About 20 members of the organization attended the meeting, and afterward chanted outside council chambers, "What do we want? A house for a house. Where do we want it? In a stable neighborhood."

Dixon told council members that she thinks the redevelopment plan is "excellent."

"My only concern at this point ... is that we make sure the constituents who are impacted be notified of the process," she said.

Tracey said residents are also worried that area property values will rise with the redevelopment and people who want to stay there will be priced out of their neighborhood.

Councilwoman Paula Johnson Branch, whose 2nd District includes the affected area, said the new homes constructed will be for mixed-income levels to accommodate current residents.

Also last night, members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees lobbied against Mayor Martin O'Malley's proposed $2.1 billion budget, which calls for 45 labor jobs in the Department of Recreation and Parks to be contracted out.

Glenard S. Middleton Sr., president of AFSCME Local 44, and about 20 union members crowded around Dixon as she left the meeting. Middleton told Dixon they felt that she, as council president, could tell him to cut some of his staff instead.

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