In the next two weeks, City Council is expected to finalize the first Zoning overhaul in 45 years, known as Transform Baltimore which will effect the entire city. For the past 5 years, RP Civic League has been actively involved in this process. Within the last month, Baltimore Country Club has seized this opportunity to request the highest density in residential zoning possible to maximize the economic value of their land, which may be at the expense of existing home values. Your participation and action is urgently needed now, please read the letter that follows from Civic League President, Ian McFarlane.
This is a very important letter to residents about a threat to the character of Roland Park. The issue: whether a developer could put a subdivision on Baltimore Country Club (BCC) land that is more densely built than the rest of our historic neighborhood.
The BCC has hired the experienced political lobbying team of Harris, Jones & Malone and is threatening litigation in an effort to win zoning that would allow well more than 100 homes on the open space that sweeps up from Falls Road to their clubhouse. They have timed their effort for the 11th hour of the city’s long effort to establish new zoning for all properties in Baltimore.
Our elected representatives are feeling the pressure of these hired guns. We need you to contact your City Council representative – Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton or Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke – and ask for her continued support to protect our zoning.
Please tell the City Council to stand with its Baltimore City constituents. Zoning lasts for generations. It is of the utmost importance that the zoning on the BCC land should reflect the actual homes and lots of the surrounding community.
Currently, the BCC’s open space is surrounded by homes on lots from about 10,000 to 64,000 square feet. The average for these nearby lots is 22,000 square feet.
The BCC wants their zoning to allow one house on every 9,000 square feet. There is not a single home surrounding the property that has such a small lot. With this zoning, if BCC were to sell the property to a developer, they would be able to construct well more than 100 houses on the 32-acre parcel.
On behalf of the residents of Roland Park, the Civic League (RPCL) advocates that the BCC land be zoned R-1-C (21,780 sq. ft.) or R-1-D (14,420 sq. ft.). This would allow construction of roughlyhalf the number of houses on the land versus what BCC is proposing.
It is true that most of Roland Park is currently zoned for one house on every 7,300 feet. But that zoning does not reflect the neighborhood’s actual construction. The average lot size for all of the homes west of Roland Avenue, not just the houses next to the country club, is 18,000 square feet. We are trying to preserve the integrity of the neighborhood, as it exists in reality.
Background: Transform Baltimore, the City’seffort to establish new zoning, has been underway since 2010. One of its stated goals is “to preserve the character of residential neighborhoods.”
Our community conducted an open, transparent process to state our recommendations, as the Transform Baltimore process required. In 2010, 2011and 2013, the RPCL Land Use Committee wrote letters to the City’s Planning Department requesting numerous zoning changes concerning local schools, businesses, and the BCC land. Over the years, RPCL representatives have met with City officials to discuss the community’srecommendations, and have testified on the matter at two public hearings. City Councilwoman Middleton has been with the RPCL every step of the way.
On Friday, September 23rd, BCC wrote a letter to its membership asking them to contact Councilwoman Middleton and urge her to change her mind. In the letter, there were many misunderstandings. But several statements stand out as so egregious the RPCL feels it is important to set the record straight.
First, BCC says that the RPCL is reneging on a previous zoning deal. They say the RPCL agreed to let them have the 9,000-square-foot zoning. This is false.
RPCL officials are unaware of any deal. We are a community organization that is governed by an elected board. Everything we do must be discussed and voted on. Our process is deliberate, transparent, and requires collective board action. Our board has never deliberated on any zoning issue regarding the BCC property other than the R1-C/D position articulated the letters referenced above.
Second, BCC says the RPCL is trying to downzone and devalue their land so the neighborhood can purchase it. This is also false. No matter who owns the land, zoning to match the surrounding community is of utmost importance. There are more than 200 neighborhoods in Baltimore City, all working to protect the unique character of their communities. We are no different.
Finally, BCC has told their members that the RPCLhas made one “low ball and convoluted offer which made absolutely no economic sense.” In fact, Roland Park has made seven offers to the BCC in 17 years, not one of which was accepted. In 2015, the Roland Park Community Foundation hired an independent appraiser to establish the fair market value of the land, using the highest and best use of the land to determine price. An offer was then made at that price. It was rejected.
Please email or call your City Council representative – Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton or Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke – today. Thank her for consistently standing with the Roland Park community, and ask her to please do it again.
In Baltimore City Land Use decisions, the other members of the City Council vote in support of the City Council person who represents the area in question. Please also emailor call the other City Council members on the Land Use Committee and thank them for supporting Councilwoman Middleton and respecting “councilperson courtesy” in deciding what is best in her district.
In order to preserve and protect the unique historic character of Roland Park, it’s vital that we ask our elected City Council Representativestoday to:
1. Reject BCC’s demand for R-1-E zoning and support the RPCL’s request for R-1-C or R-1-D zoning on the land.
2. Remember that Roland Park has one of the highest tax bases in the City and that we cannot afford to have our properties devalued by inconsistent zoning.
3. Remember that we are trying to preserve the integrity of our neighborhood. By voting for (on behalf of) the Roland Park community they are sending a strong message that City neighborhoods matter.
Don’t wait. Please stop what you are doing, take 5 minutes and send an email or make a phone call. Neighborhoods Matter!
President , Roland Park Civic League