Over the years the residents of Washington Hill have brought back to life a neighborhood on the brink of decay to one that is a thriving, attractive place to live.
However, in an effort to support and protect our neighborhood's continued progress and growth, we face a stumbling block created by a loophole in the city's zoning law that continues to impede our progress and harm the citizens of Baltimore.
I recently endured a grueling six-and-a-half-hour wait to file a protest against the renewal of a non-conforming Class A establishment's liquor license in our neighborhood.
I had collected 215 signatures supporting our protest, in addition to substantial data showing a direct correlation between the density of alcohol outlets and higher rates of violent crime.
The establishment had been primarily a pharmacy for years, but through the transfer of a grand-fathered liquor license — granted despite the fact that a 1971 zoning law prohibits liquor outlets in residential neighborhoods like ours — the new owners decided to expand the store to sell liquor only.
Although a neighbor and I had waited patiently to present our case to the liquor board, we were told that since we had no specific, dated complaints against the establishment our case would be dismissed. All during that time we heard numerous citizens describe examples of the damage "package goods" stores like the one we oppose incur on the surrounding area, including drug-dealing, fights, disturbance of the peace and littering.
I write on behalf of the Washington Hill neighborhood to ask that the mayor and City Council accelerate approving the changes to the city's zoning code proposed by TransForm Baltimore, which call for limiting the number and concentration of alcohol outlets in a neighborhood and limiting the proximity of such outlets to each other and to schools and playgrounds.
Washington Hill currently has four other liquor outlets and bars within walking distance of a public elementary and middle school, numerous churches and two parks used by children and families.
Must we stand by and watch yet another non-conforming alcohol outlet expand and damage our neighborhood before we can even launch a protest heard by the city liquor board?
Magdalena Fitzsimmons, Baltimore
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