Baltimore City Department of Planning e-News - December 2020

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the compass - city of baltimore department of planning

Baltimore City Department of Planning eNewsletter  - December 2020

A Message from Chris Ryer, Director


What a year in Baltimore and the Department of Planning!

The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred conversations in the Department of Planning and the broader urban planning profession, pushing us to rethink topics as broad as street design, public engagement, food distribution, housing, transit and more.

Since March, our Food Policy team has been working incredibly hard with partners all over the city to coordinate the distribution of food - including grocery boxes, vegetable boxes and more. These efforts are ongoing. The latest information is kept updated here.

In Baltimore, creativity abounded this year in response to the Pandemic. Architects, designers, planners and public health experts worked together through the "Design for Distancing" initiative, developing solutions to modify city streets, in order to bring public spaces to life while accommodating social distancing. You can check out the results via this link.

In our region, transit agencies have been hit hard by the pandemic. WMATA is considering closing 19 stations across the DC area in order to bridge a major, half-billion budget gap.  Closer to home, upwards of 40% of Baltimore's essential workers count on transit to get to work and home. And the pandemic has underscored the great need for a more connected system.

In our office, our day-to-day work has continued largely uninterrupted - just in a virtual fashion. Our public meetings have moved online - so did the Planning Academy this Fall. In some ways, the virtual platform have allowed more participation from those who found it easier to tune in online, but for others, the online format may pose a challenge. Looking ahead to 2021, we will continue to look for new models for engaging the public, including creative approaches to overcome the digital divide. 

Chris Ryer, Director

Apply to Planning Academy by Monday (12/14)

The Planning Academy is a free six-week course with a focus on building community leadership around urban planning, zoning, and development in Baltimore.

Below are responses to some questions we've received about the program this month:

What does the curriculum cover?

The course is unique in its laser focus on the functions of zoning and the process of development, and its emphasis on small group learning and community building across neighborhoods.

How many people are accepted?

We have space for 30 participants per session, and usually we have far more applicants. We cap the course at this level because we emphasize community building and relationships - we want everyone to participate actively and get to know each other. However, we do post materials from the course publicly on our website for anyone interested in the content to review.

When will the course be held? What is the time commitment?

The workshops will be held on weekday evenings after 6 PM. If fully virtual (TBD), the course will be held Tuesdays/Thursdays, 6:30-8 PM. We ask that all participants commit to ALL sessions.

How does the application work?

Your application will be assessed based on your responses to four general short essay questions. We are looking for people who are curious, involved and care about Baltimore! The applications are reviewed by a team of staff and alumni of the program. 

We prioritize participants from communities that have faced historic disinvestment in Baltimore.

Apply on look for the button on the top right of the page!


Historic Preservation & CHAP Key to Urban Planning in Baltimore

Next CHAP hearing: January 12, 2021

For older cities like Baltimore that were established almost 300 years ago, historic preservation becomes increasingly important to planning. In Baltimore, the historic fabric of the city reinforces many planning principles that make urban living desirable: walkability, diversity of uses, visual interest, and places conducive to positive social activities.  In addition, many of Baltimore's architectural details – marble steps, cornice brackets, slate roofs, cast-iron window hoods --  make neighborhoods visually unique and irreplaceable. 

Like good nutrition, CHAP guidelines and design review help buildings stay healthy, live longer, and shine with vibrancy. More than that, they provide cultural, aesthetic, and even economic value to Baltimore City.

Earlier this year, CHAP released a study by PlaceEconomics that analyzed the economic impact of the City's Historic Tax Credit. This report also looked at the value of Baltimore City's historic districts where CHAP conducts exterior design review. The study found that the average residential property value in these neighborhood was double the value of properties outside these districts. If you haven't seen the study yet, you can see it here

If you are interested in historic preservation, you can also tune in to CHAP hearings each month. All hearings are on the second Tuesday of the month, and are available via livestream. The agendas can be found via this link.

Zoning: Looking Ahead to 2021

Signage 2

During the City Council review of the Zoning Code Rewrite in 2016, the Department of Planning committed to an annual review the Code, so that it is responsive to change over time.

We are continually working on this task with a corrective bill in 2017 and a rewrite of signage title in 2018. 

In 2020, we prepared an additional bill that was a collection of updates regarding usability and clarity of the code. 

That bill (City Council Bill #20-0601) did not complete the Council hearing process before the Council completed their four year term. 

Therefore, moving forward we have a number of zoning related updates in progress for 2021:

  1. Corrections and clarification to Title 17 Signage
  2. Redoing the changes considered in City Council Bill #20-0601
  3. Changes to Parking requirements

We are also evaluating aspects of the code from an equity lens perspective. This process will assess how the code impacts historically disinvested neighborhoods, as well as overall neighborhood stability and growth.

There may be other amendments proposed in 2021 to the zoning code as a result of this work. You can track updates on this website.

If you have any questions please contact

UDAAP in December:

At the December 10 meeting of the Urban Design & Architecture Review Panel, the panelists reviewed two projects in Harbor Point, including Parcel 3, located next to Point Park. This project includes a public space component with a view of the waterfront. Interested community members can review project details by visiting the agenda webpage via this link.


Grant Funds Tree Planting in SW Baltimore

Racheal Wilson Trees

Through a grant from AARP and in partnership with Bon Secours Community Works, 30 trees were planted at Racheal Wilson Memorial Park, 145 S. Calverton this month.    

The AARP grant also provides funding for Bon Secours Community’s Clean and Green Team (a workforce program for Southwest Baltimore) to water and maintain the trees during 2021.

Baltimore Makes the Climate Cities A-List

Baltimore has been recognized by CDP as one of 88 cities across the globe that continue to lead on environmental action despite the pressures of tackling Covid-19. 

CDP is a global non-profit that drives companies, cities and governments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, safeguard water resources and protect forests.

Baltimore has been recognized for its actions to develop robust climate change strategies, track and act to limit and reduce emissions, assess and mitigate climate risks, and transparently report this information in its 2020 disclosure to CDP.

The full "A" List of cities is published here.


Forest Conservation Guidelines & CAMP Manual Go Live!

CAMP Forest

Two important environmental regulatory documents are going live this month.

1. Updates to the City’s forest conservation code and manual are effective as of 12/28/20. Bill #20-0546, Natural Resources – Forest and Tree Conservation was introduced at the June 22nd meeting of the Baltimore City Council and signed in September.  The presentation linked here provides a summary of changes.

2. The 2020 Critical Area Management Program manual (CAMP) is now available via the Office of Sustainability. 

The CAMP establishes guidelines for development of properties within the first 1,000-foot of land measured from the mean high tide line along the shoreline or bulkhead.   Development in the Critical Area is subject to Critical Area review.

Save the Date! AIA Hosts Food Policy Director for Winter Panel

Food panel

On February 23, Holly Freishtat, Food Policy Director, will be joining a panel on food insecurity issues organized by the AIA (American Institute of Architects) in Baltimore. 

One in eight people in Maryland, and one in four in Baltimore City, are food insecure. Many children in the Baltimore region are hungry when they arrive to school, and many have not eaten a full meal since they left school the day before.

According to the USDA, as of 2016 there are at least 13 million children who live in food-insecure homes in the United States. Due to the pandemic, over 18 million children this year could be facing food insecurity.

Join us in a discussion with community leaders as we dialogue on current efforts and new solutions to food insecurity and sustainability efforts in Baltimore.

Register online via this link.

Upcoming Commission Meetings & Events.

12/10/20 - UDAAP 

The Urban Design and Architecture Advisory Panel’s role is to provide the Planning Commission and the Department of Planning design review expertise in the areas of urban design, architecture, and landscape design.

The agenda, meeting notes, and presentations for UDAAP meetings are made available here.

12/16/20 - Sustainability Commission 

The Commission on Sustainability is a 21-member body, overseeing the implementation of the Baltimore Sustainability Plan. The December meeting will focus on 2021 legislative updates.

Meetings are held monthly, currently via WebEx, and open to the public. 

12/17/20  - Planning Commission 

The Planning Commission is responsible for maintaining land use plans for the City and reviewing all amendments to the Zoning Ordinance. The Planning Commission meets on Thursdays throughout the year. 

Agenda and WebEx information is available via this link.

If you are unable to participate, you may submit written testimony to

1/12/21 - Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP)

Since 1964, CHAP has enhanced and promoted the culture and economy of Baltimore through the preservation of buildings, sites and neighborhoods. CHAP meets on the second Tuesday of each month. 

Information and an agenda for the upcoming meeting is available here.


Baltimore City Planning

417 E. Fayette Street, 8th Floor

Baltimore, Maryland 21202


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