COMMENTARY CONTINUES:

Response to Joan Floyd’s “Hopping Mad” Op-Ed

by Alfred W. Barry, III

I read, with interest, the September 5th story by Joan Floyd and, as you know, there are two sides to every story.

Her story regarding the apartment project behind her home leaves an unfortunate impression with the casual reader that the City administration is illegally condoning a project that will negatively impact her community.

The developer's role in this story goes back over two years when he began meeting with the community association to explore residential development of a cleared site that was zoned for heavy commercial use. During the next several months, alternatives were presented for a 45-unit, market-rate apartment building that included an all-brick, four-story design. A Task Force of nearby residents was established at the suggestion of the City that included Ms. Floyd's husband [Doug Armstrong], who attended the meetings, pointedly as an "observer," and without any meaningful contribution. It became clear that Ms. Floyd and her husband were only interested in stopping development of the property. Those members of the Task Force that participated endorsed the project.

A rezoning bill to downzone the heavy commercial zoning to a residential classification consistent with the neighborhood was introduced and received a favorable recommendation from the Planning Commission. However, at the neighborhood association's request, the City Council refused to rezone the property until a public discussion could be held in the community on December 11, 2001. City representatives described what could be developed under both zoning classifications, pointing out that the existing commercial zoning allowed a taller building than the proposed residential zoning. Although the developer acknowledged his ability and intention to proceed under either classification, the majority in attendance chose to retain the existing zoning.

A permit for a 26-unit, seven-story building was issued by the City in November of 2002 and was promptly challenged by Ms. Floyd's husband, delaying construction for over five months. In April of this year, the Zoning Board rejected their legal arguments and affirmed that the developer is within his rights to commence construction. Ms. Floyd invests considerable stock in a previous court decision, but that decision pertained to a restaurant use and is not a precedent for this situation. The City's actions are legal and the developer is allowed to proceed under the law with construction.

What is more ludicrous is Ms. Floyd's continued bemoaning of a substantial, nonsubsidized, $6.5 million dollar housing investment replacing a long-time neighborhood eyesore and nuisance. The development will be state-of-the-art, with secure off-street parking and building entrances, indoor bike storage, community spaces and high speed internet access to all rooms.

Of course, this is not the only example of Ms. Floyd and her husband's opposition to positive neighborhood development. The improvement to the deteriorating Census Building at Howard and 26th Streets has been delayed over a year due to similar legal maneuverings by her husband, despite a community consensus in favor of returning the building to active use.

Ms. Floyd's complaints against the O'Malley administration demonstrate a parochial NIMBY attitude that only discourages private investment that neighborhoods like Remington need and deserve. As Baltimore City shows that it can attract new residents to attractive neighborhoods, development battles such as this one will only increase.

Neighborhoods have a real opportunity to ensure positive development, but that requires a different attitude than "just say no!"


Alfred W. Barry, III is a principal in AB Associates, land use planning consultants.


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This story was published on September 17, 2003.