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Readers Respond

Highlandtown rezoning

Much has been said in recent years about the loss of manufacturing and industrial jobs that has contributed to the current state of Baltimore City.

Despite this conversation, the City Council is considering eliminating a prime industrial property in Southeast Baltimore that could serve as a thriving hub for quality jobs. Do we want a city that creates jobs for average Baltimoreans or a city that creates condos for the privileged few?

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As the council considers the city's future growth through Transform Baltimore, we implore it to not repeat the mistakes of the past.

Baltimore grew because of its proximity to the deep water of the Chesapeake and our robust rail and highway infrastructure. Baltimoreans have found, and continue to find, quality jobs throughout the city precisely because Baltimore has a thriving industrial sector. If we are to continue growing and renewing our city, we have to protect the assets that make it unique.

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Currently, the council is considering a request to rezone property in Highlandtown from "heavy industrial" to "residential mixed use." However, the proposed development is adjacent to a key freight route that's used by trucks coming to and from the Port of Baltimore and between active railroad operations.

History shows that putting residential areas next to industrial ones inevitably leads to conflict and acrimony as new residents grow resentful of their neighborhood's higher noise and activity levels.

Rezoning prime industrial property to residential is bad public policy that is opposed by the Baltimore City Planning Department and counter to the city master plan. What's worse, this decision is not being debated by the entire council has been left in the hands of a single council member, Jim Kraft, who will no longer be in office after 2016.

When the council votes on this rezoning Sept. 28 members will likely defer to councilmanic courtesy, which means that a decision that affects the entire city will be decided by a single council member who represents the district where the project lies.

We urge Councilman Kraft and his colleagues to vote for the broad interests of Baltimore rather than the narrow interests of a private developer. We call on Mr. Kraft to allow his colleagues to vote for the interests of constituents throughout Baltimore.

Jeff Fraley

The writer is chairman of the Baltimore Industrial Group, which represents manufacturing, transportation, maritime, shipping and warehousing businesses.


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