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Legislation Boosts Neighborhood Associations' Power

Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke is submitting a bill and resolution seeking to improve neighborhood association standing to challenge zoning decisions.

Legislation set for introduction in the City Council would increase Baltimore neighborhood associations' power to challenge zoning decisions made by the city.

Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke will introduce on Monday a bill intended to give neighborhood associations the ability to appeal decisions made by the city’s Zoning Administrator, and a resolution requesting that the city’s state legislators support a bill granting standing to groups challenging Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals opinions in court.    

Currently Baltimore law doesn’t give neighborhood associations the legal ability to appeal decisions—such as allowing a business to open in the neighborhood—or grant them standing with the Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals during a hearing.

The bill, as proposed by Clarke, would grant neighborhood associations registered with the city’s Planning Department those rights. 

The resolution introduced by Clarke, also calls for the council to ask the city’s General Assembly delegation to craft and support legislation that would grant neighborhood associations the right to challenge decisions made by the Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals in court.

Currently state and city law provides only "near neighbors" standing before the board or in court. Clarke said these pieces of legislation would allow the neighborhood associations to stand up and pursue actions that individual neighbors don’t have the time to pursue.

"In many neighborhoods the near neighbors don’t have the time or means to go to court," Clarke said.

She said that the state has already granted neighborhood associations in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties standing to challenge zoning decisions in court.

She also said she hasn’t spoke to any state lawmakers to gauge their interest in supporting such legislation.

"I’d like to have the support of the City Council and then ask legislators," Clarke said.

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k harris December 03, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Most of the officials of the city are uneducated enough about smart city planning, zoning, and neighborhood building. There is no need to let the clueless neighborhood association busybodies have even more power over these choices. I am not a business owner but I do my best to get educated about what types of businesses can help my neighborhood's future and to support them. Usually they're already up against a wall of neighborhood association reactionaries with no clear agenda other than affirming their authority.
Baltimore Matt December 03, 2012 at 07:52 PM
I am so affraid that this will give more power to obstructionist like Joan Floyd. The last thing this city needs is to make rezoning harder than it currently is. We don't have a real definition of what constitutes a community association or a way to deal with neighborhoods that have multiple fractured community associations. This means small groups of people with their own agendas will be potentially able to block zoning changes by holding things up in the courts (obstructing change). It will take years to make any changes in some neighborhoods. This will have a negative effect on business competition, housing availablity, area job availablity, tax base, redevelopment, and even property values. Mary Pat, this idea stinks.

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