Dundalk leaders back Smith's proposal to change county redevelopment process

Residents ask leader to put first project in their area

January 09, 2004|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

Greater Dundalk Community Council members told Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. last night that they are excited about his proposal for a new redevelopment process and want the first project in their community.

Members also suggested at the meeting tweaking of a draft bill that Smith released in November to ensure that the traditional, mixed-use developments that he is trying to encourage would be compatible with the broader community. They also asked that enough time be given for residents to think about a redevelopment project and come to a consensus.

Two years ago, a team of urban planners developed a community plan for revitalizing Dundalk after a series of intensive input meetings with residents, which Smith said inspired his plans for a new, collaborative design process. Dundalk residents said they see Smith's proposal as a way to turn that plan into action.

"We were really first in the county in leading this, and I hope when a bill finally comes, Dundalk is the first pilot project," said Scott Holupka, president of Dundalk Renaissance Corp., an organization dedicated to revitalizing the community. "I think it can really dovetail well with what we're doing."

The meeting is one of four that Smith and members of his administration plan to attend in the coming week to seek input for the plan that has become the centerpiece of his administration.

In the pilot program Smith has proposed, developers would get quicker approvals and more flexibility for projects in certain older communities in exchange for giving residents and community planners meaningful input in a series of meetings, known as "charettes," and the ability to veto a plan they don't agree with.

Leaders in older communities around the county have said they yearn for the type of high-quality mixed-use development the executive is proposing, but some of the details in early drafts of Smith's bill have stirred fears in some that the process would favor developers.

Smith said he plans to present his bill to the Planning Board on Thursday and to give a speech outlining the input that he has gotten from the four meetings and from e-mails and letters he has received. He said he would ask the board to appoint an advisory committee to study the issue further.

Smith said that based on the input he has received, he will ask the Planning Board to look at ways to allow as many people as possible a say in the design process. He also plans to give communities greater opportunity to shape the locations of the "Renaissance Opportunity Districts" where the developments would take place.

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