City Council approves the first master plan in 35 years

November 14, 2006|By John Fritze | John Fritze,Sun Reporter

Baltimore's City Council, meeting for the first time since the election, unanimously approved a far-reaching comprehensive master plan yesterday that could shape how land is developed in the city for decades.

Sheila Dixon, the incoming mayor, has said that implementing the 200-page master plan, an advisory document, will be a key goal of her administration. City planners spent two years drafting the plan.

"We've made history today," said Dixon, who is now the City Council president but who will serve the remainder of Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley's mayoral term next year. "I don't think people realize the significance of this. ... It's a great framework to work with to move Baltimore forward."

The master plan, the first in 35 years, sets both broad and specific goals for how land should be developed. It calls for a number of other changes, such as extending last call in city bars to 4 a.m. from 2 a.m. and establishing citywide landscape and building design ordinances.

Those changes, and many others, would still require City Council approval, even though they are included in the master plan. The document is available online at The city held several public hearings on the plan this year.

City planners will use the plan as a guideline when they conduct a comprehensive rezoning of the city. For that effort, city planners will review virtually every piece of property and assign a level of zoning.

Also yesterday, City Council member Mary Pat Clarke introduced a bill that would prohibit doctors and dentists from opening in certain residential neighborhoods. The proposal follows a new ordinance, signed by O'Malley, that allows drug treatment centers to open in neighborhoods where doctor's offices are now allowed.

"We've opened the whole city - almost every business district [and] all but one industrial district, by right - to be substance-abuse treatment centers," Clarke said. "So I thought we should deal with this. ... Let's help the neighborhoods."

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