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Baltimore's zoning deadline

February 3rd is the day we find out which current Baltimore City Council members are really giving up their seats and who the candidates will be for the upcoming primary and general elections ("Robert Curran and Rikki Spector won't seek re-election to Baltimore City Council," Jan. 11).

But in the meantime, another key deadline is about to pass with very little attention: January 15 is the deadline for homeowners to respond to a single postcard mailed in 2012, not long after the last election, informing us that the entire city was going to be rezoned.

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In 2012, the Planning Department proposed a set of new zoning maps. If you look at those 2012 maps, which are part of City Council Bill 12-0152, and you don't like what's proposed for your property, or the property down the block, or the property across the street or alley, the City Council apparently expects you to request a change by January 15 — or forever hold your peace. After new zoning maps are enacted, property owners will be able to do whatever the zoning allows as far as new construction, additions, new uses for existing buildings, etc.

Homeowners who have scrutinized the 2012 maps have noticed some unpleasant things. The proposed zoning of properties near row houses to allow massive, dense apartment buildings that will block sunlight and views is one of the easier problems to spot on the new maps. Most issues are more subtle, such as the proposed expansion of land in neighborhoods for bars and liquor stores.

The biggest problem is that the zoning categories shown on the 2012 maps do not even exist. That's because the current City Council and mayor have not enacted a new Zoning Code text to finalize the new zones and their regulations. So it's impossible for homeowners to understand what is proposed by the 2012 maps, let alone make informed decisions.

It's unfair for the outgoing City Council and mayor to force our hand. City homeowners must not be treated like game show contestants compelled to choose between Door No. 1 and Door No. 2. These are our homes, not gambling chips.

The solution is for the outgoing City Council and mayor to remain focused on the formidable task of enacting a new Zoning Code text. Hammer out the new zones and get the regulations down on paper. Give neighborhoods a chance to study and understand them.

And leave the new zoning maps to our new elected officials. Let us choose the people who will determine the future of our neighborhoods.

Joan Floyd, Baltimore

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