Butchers Hill townhouses win approval

Planning Commission gives OK despite protests

February 04, 2005|By Jill Rosen | Jill Rosen,SUN STAFF

Despite protests from some Butchers Hill residents, a small but pricey cluster of townhouses was unanimously approved yesterday by Baltimore's Planning Commission.

E.R. Bacon Development and Stonington Partners proposed turning a former machine shop at the southeast corner of Pratt and Chester streets into six four-level town homes.

The two-story brick building would be demolished to make way for three-bedroom homes with two-car garages that would cost $650,000 each.

The community's main concern, said David Dyer, president of the Butchers Hill Association, was that the new housing would be built on property zoned commercial, which would allow the developer to build higher than on residentially zoned land. The community feared that the taller buildings would look out of place in the neighborhood.

Dyer called the project Butchers Hill's "number 1 priority" and said that when the association discussed it last month, it was "probably our most heavily attended meeting, maybe in association history."

Although about 10 Butchers Hill residents protested the plan yesterday, the commission voted to approve it, telling those with objections that the developer had the right to build even higher.

The developers did scale back their original plans after earlier discussions with the community. The townhouses would be about 42 feet tall at their highest point, a few feet taller than neighboring row homes.

"Frankly, it's much more compatible to the fabric of the neighborhood than many projects we see," said Commissioner Douglas McCoach.

Tom Sabia, who lives next to the project on Pratt Street, was disappointed in the commission's decision.

"It is gonna stick out like a sore thumb on the end of the block," he said. "It's just gonna look huge."

"The reason why this has to go to a board is to stop something like this," Dyer said. "Something that's technically allowed but is in violation of the spirit of zoning."

Councilman James B. Kraft, who represents Butchers Hill and Upper Fells Point in District 1, and who supports the project, said it is in character with the neighborhood.

"There are times when we are going to have issues we're going to have to fight and fight hard," Kraft said. "This is not one of them."

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