Baltimore City Department of Planning e-News - December 2021

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the compass - city of baltimore department of planning

Baltimore City Department of Planning eNewsletter  - December 2021

A Message from Chris Ryer, Director


As covered by the the Baltimore Sun, Mayor Scott's Administration released an Action Plan in December outlining policy goals, related actions and progress. 

The plan consists of five thematic pillars, and the Department of Planning is listed as a primary agency to work towards the actions under three of the pillars - (1) clean and healthy neighborhoods; (2) equitable neighborhood development and (3) responsible stewardship of city resources. An online dashboard has been created to allow the public to track progress towards each of the actions.

As we look ahead to launching the Comprehensive Plan process in the new year, the City's Action plan will inform our work.

This past year, we have seen quite a bit of staff transition at Planning, with several leaders retiring and new staff joining our CHAP, LUUD, Sustainability and Food Policy teams. Holly Freishtat, our City's first Food Policy Director, just recently announced her move to join the Milken Institute as the Director of Feeding Change. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Holly led a major citywide Produce and Grocery Box Distribution program. On behalf of the city, she wrote, secured and managed 35 grants and contracts, helping secure more than $35 million to support 40 nutrition and agriculture programs and policies. We are thankful that Holly established such a strong foundation for food equity in Baltimore City throughout her 11+ years with City government.

Best wishes from all of us at the Department of Planning for a safe and enjoyable holiday season!

Chris Ryer, Director

Planning Academy Alumni Making an Impact: Ashley Esposito, Weaver Award Recipient

Since 2018, 150+ Baltimore City residents have joined the Planning Academy, a small, cohort based civic engagement program which aims to demystify zoning and development review in Baltimore. 

In this new Compass series, we are sharing some of the accomplishments from alumni of the Planning Academy to showcase the breadth of skills and contributions each participant brings to the City of Baltimore.


Ashley Esposito co-founded the Village Violetville, a neighborhood association, to bring her community together and meet community needs.

Violetville is a neighborhood in Southwest Baltimore, near Saint Agnes Hospital, that is named after the flowers that bloom there each year.

Ashley has lived in Baltimore since 2016; her husband was born and raised here. Ashley fell in love with Violetville when she came to visit her brother-in-law on Halloween. She writes, "Halloween is my FAVE! And Violetville’s streets were packed with kids and the neighbors were all outside - it was great!  We are now raising our 15-month old here who has been nicknamed “Violetville Vinny”.

Ashley organizes her community through the Village of Violetville, which she describes as an “un-association” in the community. According to Ashley, "We do things differently in our organization. First of all, I don’t view myself as a leader. A lot of the ideas, events, and solutions are offered by my neighbors. I just create the space to connect people. I see people and communities like a hive of bees. They are all working and moving...having centralized communication and resources makes that work much more efficient."  For Ashley, the Village of Violetville, Inc. is a neighborhood wellness association because of its focus on being responsive to the needs of the community. Building connection is at the heart of the work. Accomplishments have included funding and replacing a new community sign, organizing a holiday decorations contest (and pet calendar!), and coming together to advocate for park improvements and business improvements at Wilkens Plaza.

This fall, Ashley was named a Weaver. The Weaver Awards recognize community members that build trust and connect people. A Baltimore-based selection committee chooses ten leaders to receive $7,000 to complete a community project. 

More information on the Weaver Awards can be found here.

New Equity Criteria Guides CIP Process

The Capital Improvement Program (CIP) is how the City pays for physical improvements in the City. Capital improvements are long-term investments in physical infrastructure such as roads, bridges, parks, buildings, and more. Part of the capital budget is also set aside for community and economic development purposes, such as programs for businesses or low-income homeowners.  

Each year, the Planning Department works with the eight major capital budget agencies to create a six-year Capital Improvement Program. The first year becomes the City’s capital budget, and the remaining five years act as a guide for future investments.  

Over the past year, Planning staff worked with agencies, residents, and other stakeholders to update the evaluation criteria used to review capital budget requests. The updated criteria are: 

  • Legal Mandate 
  • Equity 
  • Health & Safety 
  • Asset Condition 
  • Return on Investment 
  • Environmental Impact 
  • Efficiency & Effectiveness 

Our Evaluation Criteria website has more information, including how the criteria are defined, how they were developed, and how they fit into the capital budgeting process. 

On January 6 and 13, the capital budget agencies will present their priorities to the Planning Commission in open, public sessions (on Webex). This is a great way to learn about the great work City agencies are doing and understand their priorities for future improvements. A full schedule is on our Get Involved website. 

INSPIRE Celebrates 12th Plan; Looks ahead to 2022 

The INSPIRE Program celebrates our 12th INSPIRE Plan.  

On November 18, the Planning Commission adopted the Mary E. Rodman Elementary School INSPIRE Plan. The Mary E. Rodman Elementary School #204, located at 3510 W. Mulberry Street in the Allendale Community, was recently renovated through the 21st Century School Buildings Program.

The INSPIRE plan leverages the $27 million investment in the school by working with neighborhood and school community members, city agencies, and other stakeholders to develop recommendations and make additional investments to enhance quality of life. The Department of Planning thanks the many community leaders, residents, area stakeholders, and school staff who contributed to the plan over the past two years.

Of the 32 recommendations in the plan, a notable one that has already been completed is the construction of a new playground at the Mary E. Rodman Recreation Center next door to the school, remedying the lack of a playground in the Allendale community for some 40 years. Read the plan here:

Last month we celebrated not only the adoption of the Mary E. Rodman INSPIRE plan, but with that also the adoption of the 12th plan - the halfway point of all plans to be developed.

While adoption is simply one milestone of each process, it’s one that reflects continuous dedication of a large number of individuals, agencies, and organizations.

Currently, planning processes for 10 more communities are underway. We expect that in 2022 a minimum of two more plans will be adopted and a few recommendation reports (a precursor to each plan) will be released.

Residents can expect to see more sidewalk improvements, crosswalks, and ADA ramps installed, and more street trees planted. We’re are looking forward to the completion or start of community projects including lighting, public art, and community gardens and parks. If you’d like to learn more, or would like to join an INSPIRE process, visit the INSPIRE web site to see where the plans are.

Shop Local This Holiday Season!

Made in Baltimore Store Open for Shoppers Seeking Local Gifts for the Holidays and More

Made in Baltimore supports 200+ small businesses across the CIty through pop up shops, branding and business development. 

This year's shop is open at 2700 Remington Avenue:

Thursday-Saturday 12pm-7pm

Sunday 11am-5pm

Open through November 18th-December 23rd, January 6th-January 9th

More information on the website.


What We're Reading (& Watching)

Quick links to interesting reports, articles and opportunities that are on our radar.

  • The ESHIP Communities Baltimore Stewardship Council has spent the past two years planning for the launch of the Black Butterfly Network and the associated Black Butterfly Exchange, a comprehensive platform for information and support for Baltimore's Black-owned businesses.
  • Tangled Titles and generational wealth in Baltimore. This story on WYPR covers the challenge of tangled titles - a situation that affects many residents across Baltimore living in homes without their name on the deed. This prevents them from accessing resources for repairs and makes them more vulnerable to tax sale.
  • Talking composting with Kristyn Oldendorf of the Baltimore City Department of Public Works and Marvin Hayes, of the Baltimore Compost Collective. This program covers a pilot program to collect food waste at stations across town, and highlights the Baltimore Compost Collective (led by Mr. Hayes). The program also offers a how-to on backyard composting.
  • An effort is underway to study and document people and places related to the history, contributions, and legacy of the Asian American community in the Baltimore region. The Maryland Historic Trust is leading this effort, funded by the National Park Service. Please read more and submit your recommendations on possible places of historic significance to this effort in Baltimore.

Applications Due Soon!

Grant Funding Available for Heritage Tourism Projects Across Maryland

The Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (MHAA) is accepting applications for FY23 grants under the Maryland Heritage Areas Grant Program. This grant program assists and encourages the preservation of historical, archeological, natural, and cultural resources while supporting economic development through heritage tourism across Maryland.

Applicants must submit an Intent to Apply form through the MHAA’s financial incentives website by January 28, 2022, and full applications are due in spring 2022. Grant awards will be announced in July 2022, ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 for non-capital projects and from $5,000 to $100,000 for capital projects. 

MHAA will be holding a series of webinars and virtual “question and answer” sessions in December 2021, and January 2022 for applicants. Interested applicants may register to attend one or more of the virtual events here:

Up to $100,000 Available to Fund Efforts to Address Devaluation of Black-Majority Neighborhoods

Ashoka and Brookings are launching a Collaborative Innovation Challenge to foster a new generation of structural innovations to address devaluation in Black-majority neighborhoods nationwide.

Participants can submit applications from now until January 13th. The sponsors are looking for applications from innovators who are advancing policy-based and market-based change on the local, regional and/or national scale. Participants will have a chance to win funding of up to $100,000.

Learn more here.

Upcoming Engagement Opportunities

DPW is hosting a virtual public hearing on the Water and Wastewater Plan on Weds, January 5th at 6 PM. More information to register is available here.

The draft Water and Wastewater Plan is available on the Baltimore City DPW website: . If a member of the public is unable to access the document online, requests for accommodation may be submitted to Lineta Duren at

Safety meetings

Starting Sunday, December 12, the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (MONSE) will host public brainstorm sessions to garner feedback to shape the City’s Group Violence Reduction Strategy (GVRS) — a key part of Mayor Brandon M. Scott’s Comprehensive Violence Prevention Plan

These brainstorm sessions will be held at Robert C. Marshall Recreation Center, 1201 Pennsylvania Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21217 on the following dates:

  • Sunday, December 12, 2021 - 1:00-4:00 p.m.
  • Tuesday, December 14, 2021 - 6:00-9:00 p.m.
  • Wednesday, January 5, 2022 - 6:00-9:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, January 20, 2022 - 6:00-9:00 p.m.

More info:


Upcoming Commission Meetings.

1/6/22  - 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

1/11/21 - 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 meeting will be available here.

1/20/21 - 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.


Baltimore City Planning

417 E. Fayette Street, 8th Floor

Baltimore, Maryland 21202


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