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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

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Is Baltimore City Looking To Give Tax Breaks Or Sell Recycle Bins?

Is Baltimore City Looking To Give Tax Breaks Or Sell Recycle Bins?

This week Baltidome learned from ABC News of a possible bill to grant Baltimore City residents a tax break if they recycle.  Excited by the proposition, Baltidome checked out the bill in question, HOUSE BILL 1001, to get the details. Unfortunately, the findings were disappointing.  According to the bill, the tax break would begin on July 1, 2010 for the “Use of City Recycling Bins” and not exclusively for the activity of recycling.

Currently you may put your recyclable materials in paper bags, cardboard boxes, City recycle bins or any container clearly marked “recycle”.  On recycling collection days the resourcefulness of Baltimorians is evident as many used and equally effective containers sit in tandem with official city bins on sidewalks.  Requiring citizens who already have effective containers to buy a NEW plastic bin in order to receive the tax break would be counterproductive and short sighted.

House Bill 1001 is sponsered by Maryland delegates FRANK M. CONAWAY, JR., frank.conaway@house.state.md.us, and CURTIS STOVALL ANDERSON, curt.anderson@house.state.md.us.