Zoning watchdogs: Smoother code could be rough on Southeast neighborhoods

Written by on November 6, 2013 in Neighborhood News - No comments

Whether a property owner will able to convert a single-family row house into a multi-family dwelling without City Council approval is one of several issues of concern for some Southeast residents regarding the city’s zoning code overhaul. - Photo by Jessica Chaney

With the Baltimore zoning code overhaul now before the City Council, and amendments imminent, a group of representatives from Southeast community associations will be watching the process and making recommendations to 1st

District Councilman Jim Kraft, who is working with the group.

“What we’ll be doing is looking though (the proposed new code) vis-a-vis the Southeast, because we’re unique,” said Barry Glassman of Butchers Hill. “We want to make sure things like ‘you can turn any R8 (residential row house) into a multi-family’ don’t go through. It might be good for the rest of the city, but not for us.”

At the most recent Highlandtown Community Association, Kraft warned the neighborhood that, in the name of streamlining the processes, the City Council may be removed from deciding on certain zoning “conditional uses,” such as adding live entertainment to a bar, or—as mentioned by Glassman—converting a single-family row house into multi-family housing.

“That’s how our neighborhoods were destroyed years ago,” said Kraft.

“They’re little things that make a big difference,” he added. “Some of this is on the planners—the planners like to make things go smooth and fast for city planning. We’re going to work very hard to make sure the rights we fought very hard to go into the code don’t come out.”

A couple years ago, when the zoning overhaul was beginning to become a topic for city planners and politicians, a similar group of Southeast representatives was meeting, Glassman said.

“We went through a draft then.”

This go-around, the group of about 10 met about two weeks ago for an introductory session. They meet again on Nov. 21.

Glassman said that they will have to decide on their particular areas of concern.

While some may put broadening the city’s tax base at the top of the list, Glassman said that he is most concerned with the zoning overhaul’s impact on quality of life.

“I personally rate that the highest,” he said. “We already have horrible traffic problems…Will city services be able to keep up with more roads and more housing?”

“The biggest thing is to have as much community input (in planning decisions) as possible,” said Darryl Jurkiewicz of Canton, “to have City Council members involved if possible. It sounds like the Planning Department wants to be able to make decisions without going through City Council, and we’re definitely not in favor of that.”

Glassman noted that nobody on zoning overhaul working group has graduate training in city planning.

“And that is a good thing,” he continued. “We are providing a residents’ focus on everything…a counterbalance to the people sitting at City Hall.”

by Erik Zygmont

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