September 2013 General Meeting
Monthly Meeting MinutesSeptember 30, 2013 Lovely Lane Church
PRESENT: 32 people were in attendance at the meeting, including presenters.
CALL TO ORDER: Jeanne Knight called the meeting to order at 7:02pm.
Jeanne presented a motion to accept the minutes. Theresa Murphy seconded. The motion passed unanimously.
TREASURER’S REPORT: Peter Duvall stated that the current available balance is $5,761 in general funds in $564 in encumbered funds. We took in $290 in contributions, paid a $25 management fee to Greater Homewood, received a $500 grant from the Charles Village Benefits District, and received a $3,500 grant from the Baltimore Community Foundation.
Man Alive/IBR/Behavioral Health System Baltimore
Jeanne Knight reported that representatives of Man Alive, IBR and BHSB walked Maryland Avenue with community members to observe the area of substance abuse disorder healthcare provider concentrations. Bernard McBride introduced himself to the group as the new the director of Behavioral Health System Baltimore, a new organization formed from the merger of Baltimore Substance Abuse Systems and Baltimore Mental Health Systems. Karen Reese of Man Alive reported her organization and IBR had sent a letter to all the providers in the area to convene at a meeting October 9. She stressed that as a member of the community for 41 years, they want to continue to be good neighbors. Man Alive has hired a security company with arrest powers. Dr. Olsen of IBR reported that the walk was very helpful and would like to continue the discussion.
Councilman Stokes stated that the community and providers have reached an agreement that a tipping point has been reached and that it is necessary to work together. He asked that we form a short-term taskforce to address the issues surrounding the providers. Theresa, Ning, Jason, Kelly, Mateusz, Jeanne and Peter expressed interest in participating on the committee.
John Schneider asked if there was an association that represented the providers. Representatives of Man Alive and IBR replied that an association does not exist. He asked how many providers were in the area and how many slots Man Alive and IBR have. There are approximately 23 providers and IBR and Man Alive have around 500 and 600 slots, respectively.
Officer Gibson said that in the Northern District, violent crime is down 17 percent year to date, but property crime is up 9 percent. Overall crime is up 3 percent. Peter Duvall asked for neighborhood specific numbers, but Officer Gibson said that he cannot separate our statistics from Charles Village.
Bow Nelson voiced concerns about the rougher character of prostitutes recently. Jason Pyeron asked about problems getting 911 calls from dispatch to the officers. Officer Gibson said that response depends on priority and available resources. Calls dealing with immediate threat to life and property get priority at dispatch. Jason said that officers do a very good job but receive the dispatch too late. Ning asked about response to 311 requests.
K.D. voiced concerns about very late responses to burglaries in progress. He also asked about how we should report nuisance crimes. Officer Gibson responded that the City is very 911-driven, and that calls will get patrol cars but not necessarily immediately.
Jeanne asked if we could find out the activities of the police helicopter. Officer Gibson said that there is no foolproof method to find out why it’s there. John Grant asked if the Police Department were using remote piloted vehicles and Officer Gibson replied not to his knowledge.
25th Street Station
Bruce Willen informed the group that the City’s Urban Design and Architecture Panel (UDARP) met last week in regards to 25th Street Station. The revised designs removed the Lowes, included a single-story Walmart, and did not include the building on Maryland Avenue, which has not changed. The drawings have been posted to Nextdoor, hosted at the Old Goucher website.
Peter suggested that we pressure the developer on the Maryland Avenue building. Bruce said that the new design is a step backward because it is even more suburban than the original proposal, unsympathetic to the urban character of the neighborhood. The developer has ignored years of community input for a pedestrian-friendly design. Designs for new Walmart stores in DC are much better. Bruce pointed out that UDARP made similar comments.
Councilman Stokes wants to set up one or two community meetings with the developer and Planning Commission. The developer and Planning Commission have said that the changes are a minor amendment, which prevents the design from coming back to community review and City Council.
Peter Duvall said that the design turns the 2400 block of Maryland Avenue into a loading zone for the stores with entrances on the parking lot side of the building. He pointed out that wrapping the parking garage with apartments would increase the value to the developer.
K.D. Kuntz suggested that if we make it a major amendment, we could force a change to start over. Councilman Stokes said that there is a deadline they will need to meet. He also pointed out that Walmart will now be the owner of its building. K.D. said the Planning Department must be made to realize that the very large development amounts to a new “urban” center and they cannot screw it up.
Jeanne stated that the developer does not intend to honor the MOU made with the community. Phil LaCombe pointed out that because Walmart will own the site, it will be able to build a cheaper building (with a design life of 15 years) and can impose a restrictive covenant to prevent reuse of the building for future retail uses.
Theresa Murphy said that with the recent addition of new residents, we should be able to push back on the project. Ning Pyeron voiced her objection to Walmart altogether, saying that she and other neighbors do not shop at Walmart.
A community meeting is being organized for October 7, 6:30-8pm, to discuss the project.
Councilman Stokes stressed the need for consensus. The project has many boosters because it offers thousands of jobs. Bruce refuted that common belief, suggesting that Safeway will go out of business as a result of the Walmart opening. An attendee asked about living wage provisions. Councilman Stokes answered that a living wage bill for large retailers failed a few years ago.
John Henderson asked who would decide on the major/minor amendment issue and Councilman Stokes answered that it would be the Planning Commission, but it could be a decision driven by City Council.
Station North Arts and Entertainment District
Bob Brent and Peter Duvall attended a meeting about the expansion of the District. Bob reported that bureaucratic hurdles stand in the way of approval this year, so we will seek approval in April. He cited Ben Stone’s comments that we need to build more support. Peter said he believes there’s no way the State Arts Council can turn the expansion down if the City supports it, which they do.
Bob reported that Ben Stone is already directing artists to spaces in Old Goucher. Peter believes we should promote the neighborhood with the assumption that we will be an arts district next spring. K.D. expressed concern about unwelcome nighttime foot traffic.
Community Vision and Master Plan
Phil LaCombe reported that OGCA continues to work with the Neighborhood Design Center (NDC) to develop a new master plan for the community. He said that the community charrette in August went well, and that the Planning Team, composed of design professionals volunteering their time and community leaders, will soon hold their kick-off meeting to start the plan creation process. There will be a walking tour with the Planning Team on October 6, 2-4pm, and a Planning Team meeting on October 8, 5:30-7pm.
Phil also reported that graduate students of historic preservation at the University of Maryland, College Park began their studio project about Old Goucher about one month ago. They will be doing research about the historic Goucher College buildings and their immediate context. Phil specified that OGCA has strongly suggested that the students work toward our goal of creating a CHAP historic design review district, but that they will determine their own scope of work that takes into account their time constraints and the abilities of the team. He will attend their Mid-Studio Review on October 10, where he will receive a report on the students’ progress and have the opportunity to provide feedback and guidance. The studio project will be completed in December.
In Cathleen O’Neal’s absence, Phil LaCombe reported that the Community Garden is winding down for the season and will hold a fall clean-up event on October 12, 9:30-11:30am.
Peter Duvall updated the Association on the revised rezoning map. Among the changes are a removal of the mixed use zoning on 25th Street. There are hearings in October, and the changes are nearly finalized. The Transform Baltimore website has more information.
Mateusz Rozanski said that he has received his greening grant for streetscaping on Maryland Avenue, 24th and 25th Streets and is meeting with the City Forestry Division to find out what we can get for free. He asked for a loan of at least $2,000 to take advantage of fall sales.
Kelsey introduced herself as a University of Baltimore student intern working out of the Greater Homewood Community Corporation offices to assist Old Goucher and Charles North. She is assigned to work with us until May 1, 2014.
Theresa Murphy presented the idea of designating a section of Calvert Street Park as a dog park. She reported that the Department of Recreation and Parks support the idea. They will write a recommendation to the City, who will ask for funding. Two dog parks are under construction. The City has a standard MOU where they own the land, hire a designer, make requirements for minimum area (5,000 sq. ft.) and water access. Theresa stated that a fenced portion of one-fourth to one-third of the park is under consideration. The park would have a raised turf surface. Larry Principe raised concerns that the dog park would interfere with efforts to establish a portion of Calvert Street Park as an arboretum.
Ibrahim stated that at least one quarter of his residents have dogs, so he sees a high demand. Peter asked if the 5,000 sq. ft. requirement was non-negotiable. Phil said that the park is probably around 50-55,000 sq. ft. in area.
Annual Meeting and Elections
Jeanne asked for volunteers to serve on the Selection Committee for elections in November. Mike Kerby, Bob Brent, and Bruce Willen volunteered. Peter asked that we seek a new location for our Annual Meeting. St. Michael’s Church and the Maryland Geological Survey building were suggested.
29th Street Community Center
Jason Pyeron reported that the Old Goucher Community Association now has a seat on the board of the 29th Street Community Center.
Saint Paul Street Site
Jeanne stated that the Maryland Department of Natural Resources is interested in working with the community on a new use for the vacant fenced lot at St. Paul and 24th Streets. She suggested community members think about what they would propose for the site.
The meeting adjourned at 9:05pm.