The Baltimore Planning Commission is bracing for a large turnout this afternoon for a public hearing on the Wal-Mart-anchored 25th Street Station development proposed in Remington.
The technical issue at hand might sound dry, but stakeholders on all sides agree that the panel’s decision could have a long-lasting impact on the North Baltimore community and surrounding neighborhoods.
Wal-Mart and developer Rick Walker are seeking a “minor amendment” to the PUD (Planned Urban Development) granted for the retail project on an 11-acre parcel west of Howard and 25th streets.
Approval would mean that the long-dormant project, approved by the City Council in 2010, could move forward.
Opponents of the project argue that changes since 2010 in the design of the complex must be considered a “major amendment” requiring Planning Commission and, ultimately, City Council approval.
The loss of Lowe’s as an anchor store, the reconfiguration of entrances, and the demolition of an historic church to make way for a Wal-Mart loading dock and garden center are among the issues cited by neighborhood critics that the design changes are “major.”
The Planning Department staff, meanwhile, has called the changes minor, noting the lower density of the latest version of the project.
Critics cite the same lower “suburban-like” density as a reason why the project should undergo more scrutiny.
Citizen Comments: Some Excerpts
The Brew has received a flood of emails, cc-ing us with copies of testimony sent to the Planning Commission and other city officials on this subject.
Citizens from Remington, Historic Fawcett, Charles Village and Old Goucher have chimed in. Here’s an excerpt from a letter written by Old Goucher resident Kris Northrup:
“A decision to declare these changes ‘minor’ will deprived us citizens of our due process. The loss of the Lowe’s, the change in parking volume, the shift of the primary entrance to 24th Street, the lack of an updated traffic study, and the developers’ unwillingness to work with the community on anything other than superficial alterations represent drastic changes to the original plans,” Northup wrote.
“Allowing this to move forward as minor amendment will be the death of Old Goucher.”
And here’s the official position of the Old Goucher Community Association and Old Goucher Business Alliance, via Bruce Willen.
Meeting is taking place at 417 E. Fayette St. 8th floor.