COMMENTARY CONTINUES:

A reply to Mr. Al Barry III

by Ward Eisinger

As I read his letter I was reminded why Mr. Barry is such a well-paid Development Lobbyist. Mr. Barry has a way with spin that is just amazing. In his letter, Mr. Barry offers a twisted telling of events in an attempt to discredit Ms. Floyd. His tale just might win over the uninitiated, but for those of us who sat through all of the wranglings for the past three years, there are so many inaccuracies it is difficult to even begin to try to correct them.

An important fact that Mr. Barry withheld from his readers is that he has been paid in excess of $14,000 to lobby for the current Cresmont project. Mr. Barry apparently does not like to indicate that he is a paid lobbyist even when he is actively lobbying for both the Cresmont project and the Census Building before the City Council and, now, in the press.

What Mr. Barry claims in his letter that does ring with ominous truth is: "development battles such as this one will only increase." Coming from a lobbyist who will undoubtedly be paid to bring such future "battles" to the residents and communities of Baltimore, this should be taken as the Gospel Truth.

Back to the matter at hand.

First it should be stated quite clearly that the City issued an illegal building permit for Mr. Barry's previous client to build the Inferno nightclub several years ago. The matter was decided when Judge Hammerman ruled for the neighboring property owners on October 31, 2001. The Developer and the City Law Department did not appeal that decision so, theoretically, they agreed to be bound by it at the time. Unfortunately that was then and ever since, the City agencies have disavowed the court ruling and made claims that Judge Hammerman was wrong.

According to the neighboring property owners, the issue is one that is not dependent on whether the project is a nightclub or a "state of the art" 7-story, 104-bedroom student apartment building. The City has forced the matter again and it is now up to the courts to decide what is right, not for Mr. Barry and Ms. Floyd to fight it out in the press.

It is true and important to note that the City is violating the rights of its Citizens, the neighboring property owners, by not adhering to the court ruling from 2001 and by forcing them to try the case all over again simply because Mr. Barry has another client and he, his new client and the City are all again claiming that the laws do not apply to this property in this instance. Essentially this is the same group that was proven wrong before, making the same arguments, on the same property.

The City is violating the City Charter by not enforcing a mandatory stay on work related to a contested permit, and stalling while work continues on the building. The result of the City's inaction is stripping Baltimore citizens of their right to protection as they appeal an agency decision they believe is wrong, a decision that directly harms their property rights and their quality of life. The right of citizens to appeal such decisions explains the protection that is supposed to be afforded by the mandatory stay on work. Failure to enforce the stay is a failure by the O'Malley Administration to protect the rights of Baltimore's citizens.

It is brutally obvious to one and all that construction work is ongoing under the contested permit. The Law Department has used a religious holiday as an excuse to buy more time for the illegal construction to continue to a point that it will probably render the neighbors' case moot. The neighbors have acted in good faith by allowing the City and the Developers' attorneys to move the initial court date from October 6th, a religious holiday, to Halloween since it apparently presented a hardship to the City and Developers' attorneys to appear in court that day.

In the face of this good will, the City and Developer have shown nothing but bad faith by allowing Struever Brothers Eccles and Rouse (SBER) to hastily throw up the building during the time the change of date has afforded. Plain and simple, what we are witnessing is an abuse of citizens of Baltimore at the hands of our City working in servitude to the interests of out of town developers who employ the politically well-connected lobbyist, Mr. Barry, and general contractor, SBER.

As the President of CPHA (Citizens Planning and Housing Association), Mr. Barry should be up in arms along side Ms. Floyd, not attacking her.

Basically Ms Floyd's letter should be viewed as a warning to others. If Al Barry III, AB Associates, the Department of Planning, the Planning Commission, SBER, the BMZA and the O'Malley Administration are unable or unwilling to adhere to the laws and City Charter of Baltimore when they are operating in Ms. Floyd's backyard in Remington, then it is likely that they are willing to do the same in Woodberry, Hampden, Charles Village, Little Italy, etc.

Mr. Barry is paid to do the developers' bidding but it costs Ms. Floyd and her neighbors a lot of money to fight the combined forces of the Developers' attorneys and the City Law Department as they strive to protect their rights. Mr. Barry now publicly attacks a concerned citizen trying to protect herself and her neighbors from an illegal action of the City, and then he tries to villify her and her husband for daring to act for the good of the community in supporting the neighbors of the Census Building. In his attempts to discredit, Mr. Barry also fails to indicate that he was paid approximately $3,000 to lobby for the Census Building....

In closing, in the Fall of 2001, State Delegate Sandy Rosenberg proclaimed things being done by the City on behalf of Mr. Barry's client did "not pass the sniff test." They smell even worse today. It is raining development in Baltimore, and with Mr. Barry and other special interests controlling our umbrella citizen and community advocacy organizations, there is no relief in sight for the average citizen.


Mr. Eisinger is president of the Remington Neighborhood Alliance.


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This story was published on September 24, 2003.