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Land-use panel hears arguments on Remington apartment project


A City Council committee heard arguments last night on a bitter North Baltimore neighborhood dispute over Cresmont Lofts, a seven-story, 26-unit apartment project under way in Remington.

The Land Use and Planning Committee, led by 1st District Councilwoman Lois A. Garey, did not vote last night. Instead, Garey will make a recommendation to the full council on a bill contested by some neighbors that would authorize parking for 33 cars.

Opponents of the project took the issue to court late last year, and Circuit Judge Albert J. Matricciani Jr. ruled that city officials violated the zoning code by allowing a parking lot to be built without an ordinance from the City Council.

But the zoning board's director, David Tanner, and other city officials have sided with the developer, Orchard Development LLC, saying no zoning laws were broken in issuing the building permit for Cresmont Loft without a special ordinance from the council on the parking lot. They said Orchard did not need council approval for the lot because it was part of a building project approved by the city.

The city has appealed Matricciani's ruling to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

Meanwhile, construction of Cresmont Lofts on a vacant lot next to the Papermoon Diner has resumed for now under a permit that allows about a dozen parking spaces, said Alfred W. Barry III, a consultant to Orchard.

In a written statement this week, Mattricciani criticized Cresmont's construction, saying that it is "proceeding on a legally unstable foundation."

Some Remington activists say the project is significantly out of scale for the residential and commercial area. An artist who works in his home, Jorge Gonzalez, told the panel that the structure would block the sunlight that he depends on.

Joan Floyd, a founding member of the Remington Neighborhood Alliance, said, "The judiciary acted as the friend of the City Council."

Floyd, an independent candidate for City Council president, said developers and planning officials did not take into account those who live near the site.

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