On the agenda for May 9
Published: May 18, 2011
11-0696 – Rezoning 811, 821, 825, 831 and 833 West Fayette Street from R-9 to B-2-3
The Read: This zoning change from residential to business comes at the request of the University of Maryland Baltimore and the UMB Health Sciences Research Park Corporation. Bill Sponsor William “Pete” Welch (D-9th District) says the proposal is for a “Proton Center,” a promising but somewhat controversial treatment for cancer. “The walls will be 18 feet thick, with a hotel on top,” Welch, adding that he looks forward to the construction jobs the project will create in his district. The plan includes retail shops at street level, Welch says.
A companion bill, 11-0696, replaces the Biomedical Research Park’s old development plan with a new one. The plan covers the 900 block of Booth Street, the 800 and 900 blocks of West Baltimore Street, the 800 Block of West Fayette (odd side), the 800 block of West Fairmont (even side), and the unit blocks of South Amity, South Poppleton, and North Schroeder streets. Nearby residents will be glad to note that one of the business types not allowed under the proposed plan is “Telegraph Offices.”
11-0698 Residential Permit Parking – Pimlico Race Track Area
The Read: This will exclude some of the area previously covered under the city’s parking sticker program, mainly Key Avenue and Cross Country Boulevard from Glen Avenue South to Greenspring Avenue. “Some streets no longer need the protection,” Councilmember Rochelle “Rikki” Spector (D-5th District) said.
11-0699 Zoning – Planned Unit Developments – Variances
This would allow the mayor and City Council to grant zoning variances at the same time the designate new planned unit developments (known as PUDs).
The Read: Councilmember Bill Henry (D-4th District) introduced this as a “corrective bill,” he said, “so we don’t have to go through what we went through a couple of weeks ago.” He was referring to a proposal for fashion and design school at the Station North Arts District. The developers included their parking variance request as part of the PUD. “They thought this was no problem,” Henry says, “but turns out that even though Planning has done this, the Law Department says that according to the law, the Council doesn’t have the power to do this as part of the PUD itself.” That glitch, discovered in the hearing for the new development, forced the developers into a more lengthy zoning process, Henry says. So this bill would prevent future developers from having to do the same.
11-0700 City Street – Renaming North Holliday Street to William Donald Schaefer Way
The Read: “He has many things named after him,” Councilmember Nicholas D’Adamo (D-2nd District) said as he introduced the bill. “This may not be the right location. Some may say the Inner Harbor, but this is to start a conversation to name a street after him.”
11-0280R Informational Hearing – Increases to Water, Sewer and Miscellaneous Fees.
Asks the Department of Public Works to appear before the council to explain its increasing fees in the context of infrastructure needs and federal mandates.
The Read: Councilmember James Kraft (D-1st District) did not comment during the meeting on the resolution he introduced. Water bills have been a sore point in town for years, because they are rising,they are often inaccurate, and the city can take a house for unpaid water and sewer bills. On April 13, the Board of Estimates approved the scheduling of a public hearing for the 9 percent proposed increases to the water and sewer rates, which would increase the annual bill for a family of four by an estimated $88. This will be the third consecutive year that these rates will be increased, and DPW officials have stated publicly that increases are expected to continue and may be higher in the coming years.
A public hearing on these rate increases is scheduled for 9 a.m. on May 18. As the rate increases would go into effect on the following day, the timing of this hearing leaves little opportunity for the concerns expressed at this hearing to be incorporated into the department’s actions. (In an unrelated hearing held on May 10, a Council committee voted to approve Council Bill 11-0685, which would end the department’s practice of billing customers based on estimates. The Department of Public Works also announced plans for a new metering system it says will address the problem of inaccurate water bills.
11-0281R Informational Hearing – Health Department – Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Asks City Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot to report to the Council on sexually transmitted diseases.
The Read: Sexually transmitted diseases cost the nation $15 billion annually, Councilmember Helen Holton (D-8th District) said, introducing the resolution. As it happens, “Stop the Spread of HIV and Other Sexually Transmitted Infections” is goal number five of a 10-point health policy initiative Barbot’s office announced on May 10.
11-0282R A Pardon for Marshall “Eddie” Conway
Asks the city’s legislative delegation to get a state resolution asking for same passed, that Gov. Martin O’Malley might actually do it.
The Read: The City Council unanimously passed a similar resolution in 2001. “There is so much evidence that suggests perhaps this case should be looked at,” said Councilmember Belinda Conaway (D-7th District), who introduced this one.
11-0283R Audit of the Recreation and Parks Department
Requests that the city comptroller hire an outside auditor to go through the department’s books.
The Read: “There has been no audit for the past 20 years or more,” Councilmember Carl Stokes (D-12th District) said as he introduced the resolution. From the resolution:
Last April, 2010, the Comptroller’s office was asked to audit the Recreation and Parks Department to help in determining whether or not the Department was in fact making the best use out of its funds. Surprisingly, the Comptroller’s office found Recreation and Parks’ accounting procedures and records to be in such disarray that it was not possible to determine how the Department was spending City money. The Comptroller’s office attempted to organize Recreation and Parks’ records into something that could be systematically reviewed, but, facing their own resource limitations, the Comptroller reportedly determined that her office simply did not have the resources to complete a timely audit.
11-0284R Informational Hearing – Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals Practices and Procedures
Asks the BMZA’s chair and Director David Tanner to explain how that body works.
The read: Stokes noted that there are occasional apparent inconsistencies in decisions there.
11-0285R Upkeep and Maintenance of Vacant Lots and Green Spaces
Asks directors of Recreation and Parks, Transportation, Public Works’ Bureau of Solid Waste, and others to tote up the costs for lawn mowing on vacant properties and figure out a way to centralize and streamline this work.
The Read: Councilmember William Cole (D-11th District) outlines the current procedure: Irate neighbor calls councilmember about trash- and weed-strewn lot; councilmember calls city agency supposedly in charge of said lot, finds out that agency is not in charge, calls next likely agency suspect, etc. Cole suggests consolidating the city’s mowing contract with an eye toward creating some summer youth jobs as well. Here’s a snippet from the resolution:
In 2010, 4,000 lots owned by the Mayor and City Council, which are managed by the Department of Housing and Community Development, averaged $760 per lot for 3 grass cutting seasons and $1,015 per lot for annual trash and debris removal, totaling a little over $7,000,000 for total average maintenance cost for all the lots. The overview for Fiscal Year 2012 projects a $65,000,000 shortfall.
11-0287R Investigative Hearing – Local Hiring Preferences
Begins process of creating a local-hiring preference for city contractors.
The Read: Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young (D) touted this resolution in a press release. He says he’s been working to find jobs for folks since he’s been in politics, and is interested in addressing “the legal impediments to local hiring” rules.
The next Council meeting is scheduled for May 23
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