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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


Baltidome in Reuters…

Following the Spirit of Green Building Laws

content by Greener World Media

By Shari Shapiro at Greener World Media

Thu Sep 9, 2010 1:00am EDT

In 2009, Baltimore passed an amendment to its building code requiring public and private buildings above 10,000 gross square feet to “be equivalent to a LEED-Silver level.”

Obviously, the goal was to get buildings in Baltimore to be more environmentally friendly. Fast forward a year, and a controversy is brewing over whether a proposed Big Box project, including a Lowe’s and a Walmart is actually green.

There is some rumbling that the project was not green because it was not being certified by the USGBC, and may not be properly managing its wastewater.

According to Baltidome:

During community testimony at the hearing, the Planning Commission was presented with concern that the developers were not applying for LEED “Silver” certification for the project and that the proposed development appears to be failing in its method for waste water management of the site. Despite the developer’s assertions, the project may, in fact, be ineligible for LEED “Silver” standards set by the city.

Without deeply analyzing the niceties of wastewater management, the resistance to the 25th Street Station project appears to be mainly one of local vs. chain. But I am wrestling with the more basic regulatory concept of incentivizing inner city development because it is green, even if it does not embrace green building practices.

Work with me here. Cities are inherently green. One of my favorite New Yorker articles of all time was David Owen’s 2004 piece on why New York City is sustainable.

The argument for 25th Street Station’s green cred goes like this: “If the 25th Street Walmart project comes to fruition, your average Baltimorean will have greater access to retail within walking or short driving distance. No need to go to the suburbs to shop, wasting fossil fuel and requiring expensive additional infrastructure. In addition, it provides an amenity which makes inner city living more attractive.”

Weighed against that, of course, is the long-distance shipping of goods to WalMart, and potentially the non-green siting and construction practices. But the non-green practices and the long-distance shipping would exist wherever Walmart builds — in downtown Baltimore or in an exurban location.

Baltidome is rightly concerned that Baltimore’s green building regulations are not being enforced, and there is currently considerable stress on municipal budgets which are leading to green building programs being scaled back. In an era of severely constrained municipal finances, are we better off focusing on incentivizing urban development and renewal than specifying (and enforcing) green building practices?

Shari Shapiro, J.D., LEED AP, is an associate with Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel LLP in Philadelphia. Shari heads the company’s green building initiative. She also writes about green building and the law on her blog a, where this post originally appeared.

To see the article at Rueters, CLICK HERE.

Celebrate Restoration Of Wyman Park Dry Stone Wall With The Masons

Celebrate Restoration Of Wyman Park Dry Stone Wall With The Masons

Celebrate New Dry Stone Wall

Thursday, August 26, 2010
From 5 – 7:30pm in Wyman Park
29th/Charles St/Art Museum Drive

The Friends of Wyman Park Dell invite you to a reception on Thursday, August 26 for the restoration of a 100 yr old dry stone wall in Wyman Park.  This is a wonderful example of green building in Baltimore and you can meet the stone masons who are restoring the stone wall.  Come to the reception, learn about their ancient craft, and see the progress to date.  Many of the dry stone masons were trained at the Dry Stone Conservancy in Lexington, Kentucky.

From the Baltimore Messenger:

The original retaining wall is 1,400 feet long and 2 to 3 feet high. It was made using a drystone process, also known as “dry-stack,” in which the stones are fitted together by hand so that water won’t collect in the wall and erode it.

But the wall, which dates to 1904, is showing its age.

“It’s been patched and repaired. It’s crumbling from tree roots,” said Sarah Fawcett-Lee, president of the group Friends of Wyman Park Dell.

That’s why a 10-member crew, led by a master mason from the Louisville, Ky.-based Dry Stone Conservancy, arrived earlier this month. They’re building a replacement wall by using Butler stone from Baltimore County.

The Dry Stone Conservancy’s mission is “to preserve historic drystone structures, to advance the drystone masonry craft, and to create a center for training and expertise nationwide”.

For the article about the dry stone wall in the Baltimore Messenger, CLICK HERE.

To learn more about dry stone walls at the Dry Stone Conservatory and its masons, CLICK HERE.

What is “Green”?
April 6, 2009, 12:19 am
Filed under: News | Tags: , ,

green3During a recent renovation project on our Baltimore rowhome, it became quite apparent that my version of “green” and that of our professed green builder were very different.  This is unfortunately not uncommon and, as green construction and home renovation projects expand, the confusion over what “green building” means is causing problems.  In a recent article for The Daily Record, Caryn Tamber writes, “The growing green building movement may bear unintended fruit: legal trouble”.

According to the article, the construction industry has yet to define green building and no one has been designated to ensure the final product.  As a result, green construction standards can vary greatly from one builder to the next and efficiency promises and product warranties may be broken.  Tamber states, “Lawyers are telling their clients to avoid legal action by not making too many promises about the green value of projects.”  But high expectations may be a good thing.  Lisa London of Edifice, a Baltimore General Contractor and Construction Management firm with a focus on sustainable practices says, “that green buildings will be better than the non-green structures that came before.”

For the full article from The Daily Record, CLICK HERE.