Developments in Development

So, while I have been off at work, a lot has been happening in my neighborhood. It is interesting to me because nothing much happens in my neighborhood because it is so out of the way. Nestled between Hampden and Druid Park, my little world is often overlooked by just about everybody. However, I have lately dealt with the neighboring Woodberry Community Association. Community Associations are double-edged swords because they can provide a sense of community but they are also rather exclusionary. I feel like the ones I have dealt with are unfairly prejudiced against renters, seeing them as subhuman and more people to be watched and feared than cared for. At least, that is what they say about their tone.

The big hoopla around here is that a lot of land in the area got new owners and they had development on their minds. This caused a lot of conflicts right away because people fear change and renters. New apartment buildings were the plan and there was a lot of pearl-clutching over the possibility that they could be low-income housing. The thought that less fortunate people might have a place to go to convenient to the Light Rail was unthinkable. But I’m probably being unfair to some of these people. Some objected to the destruction of buildings that had been there for centuries. I am all for historical preservation but that only extends to places where things of note happened or particularly pleasing architecture. The buildings they were trying to protect ranged from dilapidated to downright ugly.

I went to several meetings to observe people (and a lawyer) try and figure out how to halt or alter the development plans. To be fair, they had a solid legal footing for holding the developers and owners to a limited amount of construction. They remained deadlocked for months and months as both sides attended committee meetings and tried to sway the government to their side. This kind of bureaucracy is kind of fun when you are on the inside but watching from the outside is mind-numbingly boring. Especially when you can see the benefit to both sides. It is like watching horse racing when you do not have a bet in. I even attended a somewhat secret anti-developer meeting to see what was up.

The latest event changed everything. There are two stone houses that I used to walk by when I took daily walks before I returned to the gym. They are on the way to my polling place down the street. They always looked ancient and were probably there since at least the 1800s. However, they also looked like crap. They were overgrown with plants and neither had been in use for anything for quite some time. They were just houses to me.  They were probably used before the mill burned down as housing or storage for something. Just after I left for work the other day, bulldozers came and plowed them both to rubble. This was way before anything had been agreed to. Cue the pitchforks and torches.

The local residents leaped into action and contacted our local city council member. By the time the council member got there, the buildings were completely destroyed. Still, he got a stop work order put on the site and the resident’s ire turned toward the developers. The first to falter were the architects of the new development. They disavowed the action, claimed ignorance of the plan, and announced that they had resigned from the project. The developers, feeling the heat, did the same and announced that they were done with the project leaving the owners standing alone. Now, the owners will probably sell the property and the whole process will start again. And they wonder why nothing ever gets built in Baltimore.

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