Communities seek more say on zoning proposal

BDC report focuses on modernization of industrial areas

December 03, 2004|By Jill Rosen | Jill Rosen,SUN STAFF

Community leaders told development leaders yesterday that they want more say in a report presented to Baltimore's Planning Commission on how to modernize the city's outdated industrial zoning.

The report, prepared by a consultant and unveiled this year, suggests ways to revise Baltimore's 30-year-old zoning rules to better reflect the demands of the modern marketplace.

The current plan has left Baltimore with a glut of sites zoned for heavy industry but not enough property appropriate for more modern businesses. It also does not take into account the tensions created when upscale condominiums sprout up next to factories.

Baltimore Development Corp.'s report details ways the city can adapt its zoning so that traditional blue-collar companies can thrive as the city lures new businesses with different needs.

After yesterday's meeting, city officials said they plan to use the report to guide their reworking of the zoning plan over the next year. Community leaders told officials that they want more time to comment on the report.

Tracy Brown of Concerned Citizens of Woodberry said she worried that the report had been out for nearly a year and that she hadn't heard about it until yesterday. Brown lives amid one of the 12 areas the report labels unstable, parts of Baltimore under pressure to change their industrial zoning.

"We're concerned that a developer will come in and say that the BDC said it was good to put industrial sites here even though it would take away our playground or our ball field," she said. "It could have a really dramatic change in our community."

City Councilman Edward L. Reisinger, along with recently elected council members Mary Pat Clarke and Jim Kraft, also told the Planning Commission that the community needs more input on the guidelines.

Clarke, a former council president who represents the 14th District, requested further public comment on the report "before this becomes emblazoned in the minds of the city."

"I understand that it's not being acted upon [today]," she said. "But affected communities ... were not involved in step one of a process that's going to lead to the rezoning of the city of Baltimore."

M.J. "Jay" Brodie, president of the BDC, said his agency wants to hear from affected parties in the community. "There should be no sense of rush on this," he said. "However long it should take, it should take."

Kraft, who represents the 1st District, which includes the waterfront areas of Fells Point and Canton, said he wants more opportunity for his district -- which has been deeply affected by condos coexisting with factories -- to comment.

"Encroachment is a tremendous issue, particularly [with] Canton Crossing," he said, referring to the Canton project which would bring offices, stores and as many as 500 upscale condos to the waterfront.

Planning Commission Chairman Peter E. Auchincloss suggested the city look into ways to better disseminate information to community groups.

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