CHAP-Planning Dept. merger a step closer

Preservationists voice support, with reservations, council told

Metro: News from around the Baltimore region

July 28, 2005|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

A proposed merger of Baltimore's preservation agency and Planning Department came a step closer yesterday after a City Council hearing showed that many local preservationists could support the arrangement, albeit with reservations.

After hearing three hours of testimony about a council bill that would make Baltimore's Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) part of the Planning Department, Urban Affairs Committee Chairwoman Paula Johnson Branch promised a final bill that would keep CHAP strong even though it would be integrated with the city department.

"Baltimore is known for its historic properties, and we must have a strong CHAP to keep Baltimore alive," she said.

Founded in 1964 as an independent agency, CHAP has legal authority to review and approve exterior changes to more than 8,000 buildings in 30 historic districts. It has been functioning as a unit of the Planning Department since last summer, when Mayor Martin O'Malley combined the two agencies by executive order.

Preservationists expressed the strongest concerns yesterday about a proposed amendment that would allow anyone who disagrees with a CHAP decision to appeal to the planning commission. That idea was scratched after drawing opposition from a variety of agencies and community leaders.

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