Baltidome Blog | Baltimore Green News

Councilwoman Who Brought Forth Proposed Baltimore Wal-Mart Development Has Been Unseated
September 15, 2011, 1:30 am
Filed under: News | Tags: , ,

Councilwoman Who Brought Forth Proposed Baltimore Wal-Mart Development Has Been Unseated

From the Baltimore Sun September 14, 2011 (excerpts):

In an election with few surprises, Baltimore City Councilwoman Belinda M. Conaway, the daughter of a storied political family, was soundly defeated in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

Conaway, 43, who had been dogged in recent months over residency issues and filed a $20 million lawsuit against a blogger she claimed had defamed her, said in a brief interview Wednesday morning that she looked forward to spending more time with her family. She ultimately dropped the suit.

The defeat is a blow to the Conaway political dynasty, which includes the councilwoman’s father, Frank M. Conaway, Sr., the clerk of the city’s Circuit Court who made an unsuccessful primary challenge to Rawlings-Blake. Belinda Conaway’s mother, Mary Conaway is the city’s register of wills and her brother, Frank M. Conaway Jr. represents the city in the House of Delegates.

While the Baltimore Sun cites her residency issue as the reason for Conaway’s defeat, residents who live in the 7th District of Baltimore City knew that her controversial introduction of the proposed 25th Street Station Wal-Mart development was likely to spur a challenger.

From the Mobtown Shank:

There’s no doubt this contributed to her defeat. But Conaway’s troubles began awhile before that when she introduced PUD legislation for the controversial 25th Street Station Wal-Mart/Lowes retail complex in Remington.

The way the PUD was handled, the way Conaway conducted herself (at some community meetings she was defensive and hostile), her lack of support for community concerns like Bmore Local’s 13 Points all not only immediately guaranteed she would get a primary challenge, it motivated a number of area residents who then ended up actively supporting Mosby’s council seat bid.

Belinda Conaway’s defeat should come as a warning to other city council representatives: When you bring a Wal-Mart into a community that doesn’t need or want one, there may be a price to be paid – and that price could be your political career.

Belinda Conaway was, in fact, presented with multiple petitions containing hundreds of signatures from residents who did not support the PUD for the 25th Street Station -and apparently they voted.

Why Not To Vote For Pugh or Rawlings-Blake

What the 25th Street Station Walmart Development Says About Baltimore’s Mayoral Candidates

Listed below are some facts…

  • February 2010, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is sworn in as mayor of Baltimore.
  • Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is a “proud supporter” (her own words) of the 25th Street Station Development
  • October 2010 -Jon M. Laria, a partner in Real Estate Department at the law firm Ballard Spahr, is appointed chair of the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission by Governor Martin O’Malley.
  • Jon Laria is the lawyer for the 25th Street Station development team.
  • Well versed in Maryland stormwater regulations, Laria aides development team in getting a waiver from a 2007 Maryland stormwater law.
  • The stormwater waiver, granted by city officials under the leadership of Rawlings-Blake, will save the development team untold amounts of money by allowing them to skirt environmental design practices required by the 2007 law.
  • According to a recent Baltimore Brew article, nearly $5,000 has been given to Rawlings Blake campaign by Ballard Spar lawyers and their spouses.
  • In November 2010, Incumbent Governor Martin O’Malley is re-elected.
  • Largest contributor to the Martin O’Malley campaign in 2010 = Jon Laria
  • In May 2011, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake appoints Peter O’Malley, brother of Gov. Martin O’Malley, as her chief of staff.

Catherne Pugh’s Involvement in the Project

  • In July 2010, Pugh sends letter of support to Councilwoman Belinda Conaway for the 25th Street Station.  Pugh explains how she met with the developers, she cites Walmart and states that the development would be a “win-win for all involved”.
  • Catherine Pugh did not attend community meetings or hearings regarding the project.
  • Like Rawlings-Blake, Pugh’s largest campaign contributors consist of developers.  They include investment firms, real estate developers, contractors and construction companies, a parking facility developer and the Head of Sales at the Baltimore Development Corporation, among others.

Vote to end corporate and developers stronghold of our city.

In one week, on September 13, 2011, vote for a change.

  • Baltidome Supports Otis Rolley for Mayor.
  • From the beginning of his campaign, Otis has focused on small business, the importance of architectural preservation and a holistic approach to governing a city that focuses on public health, parks and schools, and support for the independent entrepreneur.

Baltimore Officials Grant Lowes/Walmart 25th Street Station Development Project Stormwater Management Waiver

Baltimore Officials Grant Lowes/Walmart 25th Street Station Development Project Stormwater Management Waiver

In 2004, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reached the largest settlement for storm water violations as a result of contamination found at Wal-Mart construction sites.

On February 4th, 2011 Baltimore City officials granted the proposed 25th Street Station bog-box development project a Stormwater Managment Waiver from Maryland’s 2007 State Stormwater Regulations.

The 25th Street Station project, originally pitched as a “green development” to area residents, promises to “meet or exceed Baltimore City’s recently enacted Green Building ordinance”.  However, the developers, represented by lawyer and Chair of the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission, Jon Laria, have now requested a Stormwater Management Waiver for the 25th Street Station and it has been approved.

According to the Baltimore City Stormwater Managment Manual,  Stormwater Management Concept Plans require “Waiver requests, if any” and curiously, the concept plan for the proposed 25th Street Station did not include a waiver request.  In addition, the Baltimore City planning department minutes from a Site Plan Review on December 16th, 2009 (link) of the 25th Street Station state,  “Stormwater Management will be under the new regulations”.

Residents raised concerns about whether the proposed 25th Street Station Development was in compliance with the 2007 Stormwater Management Law at an August 5th, 2010 Planning Commission hearing.  The development’s proposal includes covering a considerable amount of permeable land on the property with buildings and a parking lot.  Concern was raised that the plan does not appear to include adequate Environmental Site Design principles required under the Stormwater Management law.  Members of Baltimore City Planning Department dismissed resident’s concerns, stating the project had been “grandfathered” into the 2000 Maryland Stormwater Management requirements.

After the hearing, residents sought the waiver for the grandfathering of the 25th Street Station proposal.  Baltimore City Department of Public Works responded that a waiver had not been requested for the 25th Street Station.  Residents continued to raise Stormwater Management concerns regarding the proposed development up through the vote by Baltimore City Council on the 25th Street Station Planned Unit Development.

A “Public Notice” for the waiver request quietly appeared in the form of a single page posted within the Department of Public Works section of the Baltimore City website on January 19th, 2010.  One week was given for public comment.

The proposed 25th Street Station development project would encompass 11 acres in the Remington neighborhood of Baltimore.  To learn more about Stormwater Runoff, CLICK HERE to visit the EPA’s website.

“Green” Walmart Project Represented By State Sustainable Growth Chair Seeks Stormwater Law Waiver

“Green” Walmart Project Represented By State Sustainable Growth Chair Seeks Waiver From 2007 Stormwater Law

Port Covington Walmart Stormdrain

25th Street Station Walmart Shopping Center Development Team Wants Waiver From 2007 Law

A page just located on the Baltimore City Public Works website published January 19 states that the city is indeed considering a request for an Administrative Waiver for the 2007 Stormwater Management Law for the proposed 25th Street Station Walmart development project (Nov 1, 2010 – Is The Baltimore City Council Going To Vote On An Illegal PUD?).

In Mid-November 2010 an email was sent by Charles Village Civic Association President, Jennifer Erickson, a reported community partner of the 25th Street Station, to Charles Village residents to quell concerns, in part, to protests over noncompliance with the Stormwater Management Law.  Erickson’s email offered testimony that the development team “began its planning two years ago” as justification for a waiver and for grandfathering the project into the minimal requirements of the 2000 Maryland Stormwater Regulations.

By Erickson’s own words, however, this is exactly why the project should not be grandfathered.   The project was plotted well after April 24, 2007, when Governor Martin O’Malley signed the “Stormwater Management Act of 2007”.  The planners made a conscious decision to shoot for grandfathering, rather than compliance, and with Jon Laria as their lawyer, top campaign contributor to Martin O’Malley’s campaign and Maryland Sustainable Growth Chair, they appear to have an ace in their pocket.

Getting “concept approval” by the waiver deadline is not justification alone for a Stormwater Management Waiver.  Baltimore City should not only consider the environmental impact of such a decision, but what the waiver will cost the city and its taxpayers in the long term.

The city posted the information regarding this waiver on their website on January 19th, 2010, but they did not send out a public notice to residents about the waiver application.   The period for comment consideration sent to reportedly ended on January 27th.

Otis Rolley Is Speaking Out! -For Mayor, That Is

Otis Rolley Is Speaking Out!
-For Mayor, That Is

Photo Courtesy of Otis Rolley on Facebook

Back in May, Baltidome put out a plea for challengers to current Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and now a glimmer of hope may be on the horizon for the green-minded of Baltimore.

Rawlings-Blake has shown no love to environmentally conscious Baltimorians as she quickly wiped out the widely popular Cleaner Greener Baltimore campaign within weeks of taking office and has seemingly been on a sustainability rub-out ever since.

In a just a few short months Rawlings-Blake has replaced sustainability efforts years in the making (the plastic bag ban, HAZMAT collection days, Main Streets programs) with Indy racing, full support for a potential downtown Walmart Shopping complex (whose plan appears not to comply with current sustainability laws), a beverage tax, cuts to Parks and Senior Centers and more.

Imagine Baltidome’s delight to hear of challenger Otis Rolley, who reportedly “drew loud applause and cheers from the audience” at last week’s TEDxMidAtlantic event “for a shout-out to Baltimore as he opened his presentation on a fresh approach to urban renewal” (BmoreMedia article).  “If you’re really serious about rebuilding neighborhoods, you have to invest in structures that value people,” Rolley asserted.

Baltidome will be looking forward to hearing and reporting more about 2011 Mayoral Candidate Otis Rolley.


25th Street Station, Come Hell Or High Stormwater

25th Street Station, Come Hell Or High Stormwater

Walmart Storm Drain at Baltimore Port Covington Shopping Center

For residents involved in legislation regarding the proposed 25th Street Station, the process has been a disappointing one.  There was the promise “this is not a done deal”, but during community presentations by the developers, the tone was one of “Here’s what we’ve done” rather than “Here’s what we can do for you”. Communication from District 7 Councilwoman Belinda Conaway, where the 25th Street Station project is proposed, has been poor. Residents living within a walkable distance of the site, but whose locale is not named “Remington”, have been deemed persona non grata by the councilmember and ignored. And finally, site plan concerns raised about the complex fell on deaf ears at the Planning Commission hearing on August 5th.  After four-plus hours of testimony, the commission voted unanimously, without deliberation, to approve zoning changes and move the project forward.

With this in mind, there is an urgent need in the 11th hour to bring attention to an issue that has received little scrutiny. The primary Environmental Site Design feature for the 11-acre site, the green roof atop Walmart, is insufficient to satisfy current local and state laws regarding sustainable development.  As a result the project appears to be failing in its methods for Stormwater Management under current law.

Stormwater management is an especially important concern for development within close proximity to our waterways and, in particular here, the Chesapeake Bay.  Stormwater runoff is generated when rain and snowmelt flows over impervious surfaces and is not filtered by the earth.   Runoff collects debris, chemicals, sediment and pollutants and transports it directly, unfiltered, to stormdrains and the nearest waterways.  The design plan for the 25th Street Station includes paving over the majority of the 11 acre site and does not appear to contain enough pervious surface area to adequately manage stormwater runoff under the current law.

This issue was brought up at the August 5th Planning Commission hearing, but was disregarded out of hand on the basis that the project had been “grandfathered” into the old requirements.  While it is true that provisions exist for the Maryland 2007 Stormwater Management Act where waivers can be administered by local agencies to projects that have received preliminary approval, but have yet to be realized, the 25th Street Station is not appropriate to be considered for such a waiver.

The development team was well aware of the 2007 stormwater law when they created their project’s design.  The lawyer for the project, Jon Laria, is the Chair of the Task Force on the Future for Growth and Development in Maryland and has conducted forums on stormwater management.  On September 2nd Laria was also appointed Chair of the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission.  You would think that Mr. Laria would aid the developers in creating a model sustainable project for the City of Baltimore.  Instead he appears to be using his expertise to help his team skirt the law.

When a copy of the Stormwater Management Waiver was requested from the Baltimore Department of Public Works, the DPW responded that this project does not have an approved waiver and to date a waiver has not been requested.

Waiver or no Waiver, by not adhering to current stormwater management standards, this project is not “LEED certifiable” as required by Baltimore Green Building Standards.  According to the United States Green Building Council LEED 2009 minimum requirements, new construction “must comply with applicable federal, state, and local building-related environmental laws and regulations in place where the project is located.”

The last hope for resolution of this issue is at the September 15th Land Use and Transportation Committee hearing.  Hopefully Committee members will require compliance of current stormwater regulations and LEED certification for the passing of the PUD for the 25th Street Station.  Otherwise they will be an accomplice in rendering the developers immune to current city and state environmental regulations.

Port Covington Stormwater Filter: Rocks On A Gutter