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Historic District Faces Development Pressure

by Ian Round and Mark Reutter7:38 amFeb 24, 20200

Coming from the Council: A bill to make Woodberry a historic district

Also to be introduced tonight: Charter amendment to change the makeup of the Council and tax credits for UMB’s BioPark

Above: The wrecking crew picks through the site of the 175-year-old stone houses unexpectedly razed in Woodbury last May. (Mark Reutter)

A bill designating Woodberry a local historic district will be introduced at tonight’s City Council meeting.

This follows community outrage at the teardown of two stone houses and a redevelopment plan for the Tractor Building that has touched on accusations of political favoritism.

The destruction of the pre-Civil War houses can’t be reversed, but the bill (20-0502) could create greater hurdles for the developers, ValStone Partners and VI Development, to install a 99-unit apartment building within the shell of the endangered 104-year-old tractor foundry.

Last May, Katherine Jennings, ex-wife of ValStone’s general partner Larry Jennings, demolished two nearby stone buildings without public notice.

The wreckage came after the community and the Urban Design & Architecture Advisory Panel were led to believe the buildings would be incorporated into a proposed apartment building. Jennings’ company and the demolition firm were given small fines for violating city housing rules.

Five months later, local property owners voted 2-1 in favor of a historic district designation.

VI Development is headed by Martin F. Cadogan, a former Martin O’Malley finance chair who became Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young’s campaign treasurer last September.

Cadogan replaced Keith E. Timmons, a lawyer who originally set up former Mayor Catherine Pugh’s “Healthy Holly” venture.

CHAP has set a March 10 hearing on whether to place a temporary landmark designation on the Tractor Building.

The proposed Woodberry Historic District would encompass about 80 acres west of the Jones Falls. (CHAP)

The Woodberry Historic District would encompass about 80 acres west of the Jones Falls. (CHAP)

Competing Charter Amendments

Two weeks after Councilman Bill Henry introduced a charter amendment that would shrink the City Council, Councilman Ryan Dorsey will introduce one making it bigger.

Dorsey’s bill (20-0503) would create a 15th district. The City Council President would no longer be elected citywide; instead, the Council would make this decision every two years. It would also be able to remove the president and fill mayoral vacancies.

At the last meeting, Henry introduced a charter amendment that would reduce the Council from 15 members to nine, three of whom would be elected citywide.

Tax incentives for BioPark

Councilman John Bullock will introduce a bill creating tax incentives for businesses locating in a new 10-story building at the University of Maryland Baltimore’s BioPark.

Under the state’s Regional Institution for Strategic Enterprise (RISE)  program, institutions can apply to create zones within which businesses would get tax breaks.

The bill (20-0504) would approve UMB’s application for incentives at the 1.65-acre RISE Zone along Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. at Baltimore Street, where the 300,000-square-foot building is planned.

Other RISE Zones are near Morgan State University and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Also of Interest

Council President Brandon Scott is calling City Schools, Health Department, Mayor’s Office of Homeless Services and others to a hearing on the well-being of the city’s transgender community.

Councilman Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer is introducing a resolution calling on the General Assembly and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to approve legislation allowing city sheriffs to unionize.

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