On Wednesday, April 5, 2017, ULI Baltimore met for a quarterly program and networking at the War Memorial in Downtown Baltimore. Over 175 developers, architects, and other interested participants were in attendance to dialogue about Transform Baltimore. The audience was thoroughly informed by a distinguished panel who outlined the nuts and bolts of passing this historic legislation in December 2016.
The panel included Laurie Feinberg, the Assistant Director for the Baltimore City Department of Planning and Project manager and chief architect for Transform Baltimore – Zoning Code Rewrite; Kara Kunst, the Legislative Director for Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young. Kara skillfully shepherded the legislation through City Council and handled all the delicate negotiations and last but not least Ryan Potter, a practice attorney with Gallagher Evelius and Jones in the related areas of real estate, land use/zoning, and governmental relations, who represented developers and gave valuable input to help shape the legislation for his clients.
Laurie presented an information packed PowerPoint presentation which gave a history of the legislation and the process of drafting the legislation and highlighted the major principles of Transform Baltimore. Her presentation was followed by Kara who discussed the legislative process and Ryan who discussed how the concerns of the development community were integrated. We then opened it up to a lively discussion between the audience and panelists.
Prior to Transform, the Baltimore City Zoning Code was last comprehensively updated in 1971. The zoning code was revised and legislation introduced into City Council in October 2012. The Planning Commission held eight public hearings on the legislation and voted in March 2013 with some revisions in September 2013. Over a hundred City Council public hearings were held from 2013-2016. The law was finally adopted on December 5, 2016. But it does not stop there, the corrective legislation was introduced in March 2017.
So what is Transform Baltimore, inquiring minds what to know?
Planning proceeded with the redrafting of the Transform Baltimore Legislation with eight key goals:
1. Reorganize the Code for user – friendliness
2. Improve Code administration
3. Modernize the use structure
4. Incorporate urban design objectives
5. Address existing character and compatible redevelopment
6. Implement the Comprehensive Master Plan
7. Integrate Urban Renewal Plans into the Code
8. Promote sustainable development
There were some new designations or overlay zones including educational Campus EC-1 and EC-2, Hospital, Waterfront W-1 and W-2, and row house and detached House Mixed-Use Overlay zones recognize uses that are currently existing. There is an extensive list of maps and charts that are user-friendly that shows the current zoning districts which were maintained wherever appropriate as well as areas that were remapped to reduce non-conformities.
One key point that Laurie noted was that the code was made to be flexible. Both Laurie and Kara acknowledged that there were some missed opportunities, but with the corrective bill and in the upcoming sessions some of those items will be addressed.
For further information on Transform Baltimore visit the City of Baltimore planning website: http://planning.baltimorecity.gov/programs/transform-baltimore
See Presentation here: Transform Baltimore Program PowerPoint