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Councilmania

On the agenda for March 28

The Council approved the mayor’s redistricting plan at the last meeting, over the objections of three councilmembers: Carl Stokes (D-12th District), James Kraft (D-1st District), and Belinda Conaway (D-7th District). The measure passed with little discussion, but as the meeting drew to a close, Conaway stood and said, “I can’t let the opportunity pass without making a comment about the illegal map. Despite interesting efforts to keep me quiet, I’m going to talk about it . . . I still say that it’s an illegal map and it needs to be changed.” Conaway’s district was one of those most altered by the redistricting; she’d previously complained to the press that the 7th District would be losing parts of the predominantly white neighborhoods of Remington and Hampden, a violation, she said, of the Civil Rights Act. 

Bill 11-0674 Urban Renewal - Key Highway - Amendment

Would amend the Key Highway Urban Renewal area.

The Read: The Urban Renewal Plan for Key Highway was originally approved in 1986, and now covers an area along the highway stretching roughly from the American Visionary Art Museum to the Baltimore Museum of Industry. Its purpose is to eliminate blight and encourage new development, among other goals. This bill would remove industrial and marine services from the plan, and make minor changes to the boundaries of the urban renewal area.

Bill 11-0675 Urban Renewal - Key Highway South - Renewal Area Designation and Urban Renewal Plan

Would remove one urban renewal area and replace it with another.

The Read: The Key Highway East Industrial Area Urban Renewal Plan was approved in 1987. Its objectives were to maintain the area—which stretches roughly southeast from the Baltimore Museum of Industry to the Domino Sugar factory—as an industrial employment center and to improve the growth of maritime business, among other goals. The new Key Highway South Urban Renewal Plan, which roughly mirrors the existing plan geographically, is meant to “facilitate the physical transformation of the area from industrial land uses to a premier waterfront residential and commercial mixed-use development,” according to the bill.

Bill 11-0676 Zoning - Conditional Use Housing for the Elderly - 4300 Frederick Avenue

Would permit the establishment of housing for the elderly at a site in West Baltimore.

The Read: This lot across from the entrance to Mount Saint Joseph High School has been vacant for decades, according to Ned Howe, director of development and new business at Enterprise Homes Inc., which is planning to spend more than $15 million on the project. (A development entity controlled by former Baltimore Ravens All-Pro Michael McCrary had planned to build townhouses on the site several years back, but the deal fell through.) Introduced by Councilmember Helen Holton (D-8th District), this bill would allow the developer to build a 100-unit, four-story building. The facility will be for “active adults,” and will serve low-income residents. And, Howe says, it will be “state-of-the-art, super-duper green.”

Bill 11-0677 Zoning - Conditional Use Parking, Open Off-street Area - 4410 Pall Mall Road

Bill 11-0678 Zoning - Conditional Use Housing for the Elderly - 4309-4311 Pimlico Road

These companion bills would permit the establishment of housing for the elderly in Park Heights, along with a parking lot.

The Read: “This was a property that . . . was in an area of Park Heights that had blight for many, many years,” Sharon Green Middleton (D-6th District), who introduced the bill, said at the meeting. “[It’s] something that’s definitely needed in the Park Heights area.” According to Cheo Hurley, vice president for community and economic development of the nonprofit Park Heights Renaissance, the building will comprise 60 units of senior housing. Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc (CHAI), another nonprofit in the area, is also involved in the project.

Resolution 11-0271R Approving the Submission of an Application to the Maryland Transit Administration for Transportation Funding through the Statewide Special Transportation Assistance Program (SSTAP)

The Read: The Maryland Transit Administration’s Statewide Special Transportation Assistance Program (SSTAP) provides funds for transportation services for the elderly administered by the city Health Department’s CARE program and nine local nonprofit senior centers. In fiscal year 2010, the program provided 30,460 rides to eligible seniors. This bill would allow the city to apply once again for the funding.

Resolution 11-0272R Investigative Hearing - Cell Phones - Access to 311

Would invite major cell phone service providers to discuss with the Council the feasibility of providing 311 access to cell phone subscribers in the city.

The Read: Councilmember William “Pete” Welch (D-9th District), who introduced the resolution, noted at the meeting that Baltimore was the first city in the nation to implement a 311 nonemergency call system, in 1996. The resolution explains that the system was partially launched to relieve the burden on the 911 system, where up to 60 percent of calls at that time were for nonemergencies. It also notes that Montgomery County, which only acquired its 311 system in 2010, has already entered into agreements with several major cell phone providers—including Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint—to provide 311 access. Welch would like Baltimore City to do the same.

City Council Quote of the Week: “Aye!” —Councilmember Robert Curran (D-3rd District). It is customary for councilmembers to ignore the Council president’s oft-repeated, pro forma call for a vote: “All those in favor say ‘Aye.’” While “nays” are generally audible, silence means acquiescence. But at Monday’s meeting, Councilmember Curran was apparently feeling salty. He loudly belted out “Aye!” several times, each for noncontroversial bills, provoking laughter from Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young (D).

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for April 11 at 5 p.m.

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