Draft of first city master plan in 30 years looks to 2012

Increase housing for those with moderate incomes and create a loan program for low-income homeowners in historic districts to renovate their properties.

Create transit hubs in areas where people have few cars and increase the number of water taxi stops.


Plant more trees and establish wireless technology zones in select parts of the city.

These are among the dozens of development strategies for the city over the next six years that are laid out in a draft copy of Baltimore's comprehensive master plan.


Prepared by the Department of Planning and promoted as a business plan as well as an urban development outline, the document is the city's first statement of broad goals and how to achieve them in more than 30 years.

Building on work that began in the late 1990s and stalled with a change in mayoral administrations, "Live*Earn*Play*Learn: A Business Plan for a World Class City" comes three months after a series of fall open houses held for residents.

It is scheduled to be presented to the Planning Commission next Thursday and to the public at nine community meetings throughout the city from late February through April 1. The commission is scheduled to consider a final draft April 20; it then goes to the City Council for adoption.

Though the master plan does not specify how much money is to be designated for each item, planning director Otis Rolley III said it provides a blueprint for the spending of $2.4 billion in capital funds from city, state and federal sources from 2007-2012.

"It's a transparent document to figure out how and why investments are made," he said.

Equally important, according to Rolley and other planning officials, is that the adoption of the plan will pave the way for a two-year overhaul of the city's zoning code, which was established in the early 1970s.

Planners contend that the zoning code is outmoded, resulting in the need for nearly 100 separate urban renewal plans and prompting an excessive number of appeals.

"People are appealing zoning codes because the codes don't work," Rolley said.


Modernization of the zoning code is one of the strategies of the master plan. More specifically, the plan advocates the creation of mixed-use residential and commercial districts; bioscience development districts to take advantage of the biotech parks in East Baltimore and West Baltimore; and special districts to encourage and manage growth around transit stops.

It also recommends a pair of changes that would make it easier to open outpatient drug treatment centers and group homes - changes that planners and others say are need to bring the city into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Those changes were proposed last year but never passed into law.

Baltimore, which has a population of just under 642,000, could "comfortably absorb" another 172,200 residents, according to the master plan.

If Baltimore got its share of projected state population growth through 2020, the city's population would grow to more than 734,000, the plan says.

Besides Park Heights and East Baltimore, where major redevelopment activities are planned or under way, the report mentions Greater Southwest and Greater Rosemont on the west side as potential "priority growth areas" where public money could leverage private investment.

While the 1990s master plan draft - which was released but never adopted - was criticized for lacking specificity, the new plan is often rich in details. For example, it recommends installing 10 devices over three years at major storm drains to capture trash that is washed off the streets, keeping it from entering the water system and winding up as a polluting eyesore in the Inner Harbor.


Some of the ideas for improving the city for current residents and attracting new ones have already been suggested, including, for example, a trolley to run along Charles Street and a citywide bicycle path.

Others, such as the creation of a regional transportation board to manage bus and light rail service in the Baltimore, would require state action.

A few, such as coordinating drug treatment and job training programs and giving preference in awarding contracts to firms with apprentice programs, would require no funding.

The document also offers a cautionary note: "Not every goal or policy in this plan will be accomplished within the specific six-year time frame."

The draft plan is scheduled to be available next week at public libraries and on the Web at

The first in the series of community meetings is scheduled from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 21 at Pimlico Middle School, 3500 W. Northern Parkway.