Condemned to Controversy
The measure "ties all of our other Smart Growth programs together," Glendening spokesperson Raquel Guillory says. She cites an example of the bill's purported range of effect: "Before, if people wanted to have a 'streetscape' program to improve their shopping district, it had to be on a state road or one that has [state-funded] mass transit. This bill would create a mechanism that allows communities [situated on nonstate roads] to improve the way they look."
Guillory says the Senate bill and its House of Delegates companion would not increase or enhance any jurisdiction's powers of condemnation. But the bill's nebulous phrasing vis-à-vis property acquisition troubles some members of Essex-Middle River Community in Action (EMRCIA), the group that led last year's fight to overturn legislation expanding Baltimore County's condemnation authority. The group's rabble rousers (as they have called themselves since a county legislator dismissed them as such last year) fear that sketchy wording such as "enhance the use of the land" could be interpreted broadly--to the detriment of longtime property owners and residents--or that the proposed five-person "community legacy board" made up of gubernatorially appointed Cabinet members could steer funds to politically connected developers.
"This one has a lot of SB 509 to it," says EMRCIA member Bob Delsignore, referring to the bill that set off last year's Baltimore County battle. "202 doesn't name a vehicle for the taking of property, and that has us worried."
True to form, EMRCIA helped deliver dozens of protesters to a Feb. 6 hearing before the Senate's Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee. The rabble rousers say they'll ride this bill just as they did SB 509 (with which SB 202 shares a sponsor, Baltimore County Democratic Sen. Michael Collins; he's joined this time around by several Baltimore City colleagues, including Clarence Blount, Joan Carter Conway, George Della, Delores Kelley, Nathaniel McFadden, and Perry Sfikas). "We'll stay right on top of this one," Delsignore says. Watch this as-yet-uncondemned space.
Big Box Backlash (7/21/2010)
Citizen groups oppose Remington development on several fronts
Documents and Eyewitnesses (6/4/2010)
Judge orders Baltimore zoning board to produce records
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