Cairnes Lane row houses proposed

Cairnes Lane, a glorified alley that runs parallel to Falls Road near The Avenue, West 36th Street in Hampden, would be the setting for 29 row houses in a planned development that some of the area's merchants say could add to their customers' parking woes. (Staff photo by Larry Perl / July 12, 2014)

A developer wants to build 29 row houses on the site of an old warehouse near The Avenue in Hampden, prompting concerns by merchants about the effect on Hampden's already worrisome parking problem.

The three-story attached single-family row houses with garages at 3622 Cairnes Lane, an alley that runs behind West 36th Street, would be priced at around $300,000, said Al Barry, a land use consultant to Monkton-based developer Ray Jackson, of Stonewall Capital LLC.

Cairnes, LLC, with a mailing address in Lutherville, is the company listed in the site plan and application for the project.

Barry said the houses would be modeled after a development of town houses build by Ryan Homes in Greektown.

The project, in an area bounded by Cairnes Lane and Berry, Conduit and 37th streets, would need three zoning variances in an area zoned B-2-2. The city zoning code requires 1,100 square feet of lot area, but 16 of the proposed lots would have a lot area of only 846 square feet. The code also requires a rear yard or setback of 30 feet, but half of the lots are proposed with a rear yard of 5 feet.

The proposed development would also need a variance to exceed the maximum allowable floor area ration for a B-2-2 zone, zoning officials say.

A hearing on the zoning variance is scheduled Aug. 12 before the Board of Municipal & Zoning Appeals.

News of the project, announced at a meeting of the Hampden Village Merchants Association on July 9, drew gasps of, "What? Where?" from business owners. President Benn Ray said he was worried that 29 row houses would create a need for roughly 60 new parking spaces in a neighborhood that has long complained of a parking shortage.

In fact, City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke has introduced legislation to create a new city Residential Permit Parking Area for residents who live around the Rotunda shopping mall, which is being redeveloped.

Clarke's proposal has caused mixed reaction, with many merchants predicting it would push motorists to park on streets closer to The Avenue and create parking hardships for their potential customers.

"Our concern, of course is where the 60-plus cars this proposed development will bring are going to go," Ray said in an email. "Will residents (who support a new permit parking area) use this type of development as yet another excuse to continue to try and restrict visitors from coming into Hampden?"

But Genny Dill, a Rotunda neighbor who has led the effort to get another residential permit parking area, said in an email, "Cairnes Lane is on the other side of Falls Road from the Rotunda property. I am not sure what, if any, impact it would have."

Barry, of AB Associates, said each row house would have a 1-car garage plus a parking pad.

Ray said that would make merchants feel more comfortable with the project.

"If they can park two cars (per house) off the street, that would be fine," Ray said.

The Hampden Community Council zoning committee was arranging a meeting with the developer, and Barry, of AB Associates, said, "We're trying to meet with the merchants' association."

Barry also said that as yet, "We haven't goner through the neighborhood process."

Community council zoning committee members and City Councilman Nick Mosby, who represents the area around Cairnes Lane, could not be reached for comment.

The project would be classified as a major subdivision and would be subject to several city reviews including a full public hearing by the Planning Commission, before it could proceed, the city's Northern District planner, Katie-Rose Imbriano said in an email alerting Ray, Mosby and other community leaders to the proposal.

Parking has long been a bone of contention in Hampden. Clarke's permit parking plan would require most residents in an area bounded by Roland, Chestnut and Elm avenues and 37th and 38th streets to either purchase permits or visitor passes from the city's Parking Authority.

Permit parking would be in effect 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and cars without permit stickers or passes would only be allowed to park there for up to one hour a day.

"I'm trying to protect the people around the Rotunda," Clarke said at a public meeting that she sponsored June 19. "There's going to be (parking) spillover."

The issue of parking came up again at the merchants' group meeting, where Clarke promised another public meeting on her permit parking plan and said no council hearings on her bill would be held until fall at the earliest.

Meanwhile, merchants expressed reservations about the Cairnes Lane development and its potential effect on parking near The Avenue.

"Let's imagine 29 new row homes or town homes being built," said Ray. "That's roughly 60 new cars we're going to have to find a home for."

Michal Makarovich, owner of the store Hampden Junque, on The Avenue, recalled Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's stated goal in 2011 of attracting 10,000 new families to move into the city in the next decade.

"But they don't all have to move to Hampden," Makarovich said.