Roland Park Vision Plan
Mellot: Intact garden suburb.
Iyer to city: Support us and we'll support you.
(Click thumbnails for video clips.)
Report on the First Charrette for the Roland Park Area Master Plan, November 21, 2009
November 25, 2009
It was a little after 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 21, when Phil Spevak, president of the Roland Park Civic League, opened the first Roland Park area master plan “charrette” (community forum) by introducing some of the people important to making the initiative a success and who have been supportive of RP in the past.
Those in attendance included Councilwomen Sharon Middleton and Mary Pat Clarke; Kathleen Truelove, president of the Roland Park Roads and Maintenance Corp.; Ken Rice, president of the Roland Park Community Foundation; Laurie Feinburg, chief of comprehensive planning at the city Department of Planning; David Tufaro, the RPCL’s Land Use Committee chairman; and Mary Page Michel, a local community activist, along with facilitators Michael Medick, an architect, and Seema Iyer, chief of research and strategic planning at the Department of Planning.
Introductions were followed by an explanation from Spevak as to why a master plan is needed. He explained that, in some communities, master plans are simply planning documents that sit on a shelf and gather dust. However, the goal for the RP master plan is to preserve the positive aspects of the community and catalyze change. In order for this plan to be an action document, it must create a forum for input so that all members of the community can share their ideas; it must have priorities if the items to be accomplished; it must have “teeth,” meaning that it must have an effect on zoning; and it must motivate a process of identifying what the resources are that will get things done (for example funding, laws/regulations, etc.).
It will be necessary, said Spevak, for RP and the neighboring communities that accompany it on the journey to take a proactive rather than a reactive role in community development. While last year’s BCC/Keswick affair had been a success from the RP point of view, said Spevak, the community nonetheless has historically largely responded to other players’ agendas, rather than they to RP’s. In the case of the master plan, local residents would take the initiative.
The process will be collaborative, emphasized Spevak, and will invite all members of the community to take part, including businesses, institutional leaders, government officials, places of worship and schools. The result will be a plan ready to be institutionalized in the Baltimore City zone code, currently being revamped for the first time in decades as part of a program called TransForm Baltimore.
Sixth District Councilwoman Middleton offered strong support for the nascent RP area plan. She stressed the importance of older communities’ working toward addressing issues that impact an area. She listed some words that define a planning process; partnership, preserve, prepare, plan. Middleton closed by saying that she is a strong proponent of community development and believes that the RP master plan will serve as a national model.
For her part, Councilwoman Clarke said that the plan should be "physical as well as social”: physical in the sense of addressing concrete issues such as zoning; social inasmuch as it must address matters relating to children, schools and the well being of the elderly.
Jean Mellot, a former community foundation president, gave a brief, yet descriptive, history of Roland Park dating back to the 19th century and of Kessler’s and Olmsted’s street planning. Roland Park was, said Mellot, one of the "most intact remaining examples" nationally of America's late 19th century streetcar suburbs.
This was followed by a history of recent RP planning from David Tufaro. A master-plan process was started in RP in the 1990s, he said, though it had never been completed. In this previous planning effort, traffic issues and land use were areas of concern, and a number of significant accomplishments were made or ultimately resulted, including the replanting of Roland Avenue, the restoration of Centennial Park (the landscaped area between east- and westbound University Parkway), the restoration of Stony Run park, the expansion and renovation of the library, the adaptive use of the old BGE substation in Evergreen (now a synagogue). Tufaro also praised Bill Wilson, a preservationist-minded local realtor, Bob Embry, who, as city housing and community development commissioner in the 1970s, had worked to preserve the RP signature shopping center — which, astonishingly, had back then been slated for demolition, to be replaced by a modern strip mall.
Facilitators Seema Iyer and Michael Medick followed, the former a municipal planner and the latter an architect. According to Iyer, area master plans in Baltimore cover 50 percent of the city and the goal is to cover more. She also highlighted that master plans are never the same: they are a reflection of the communities that spawn them.
Medick then provided some ideas to keep in mind during the planning process: to be creative, realistic and programmatic; to be prepared for a lot of work; and to be engaged. He also raised some important questions. Should RP become a CHAP neighborhood? (CHAP is the city Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation.) How should RP pay for new green space? Should RP become a special benefits district, in which there would a small, dedicated surcharge added to property taxes?
For an hour, attendees then formed into groups for breakout sessions. Predetermined group topics included transportation, infrastructure, future development areas, housing, green/open/recreational space, commercial/retail, historic preservation/special institutions and livability.
After a presentation from each of the groups summarizing its discussions, Phil Spevak ended by defining the next steps in the process. First, a technical committee that does research and meets regularly will work to package the concepts developed in the meeting. The technical committee is an umbrella group for sort of permanent versions of the topic-matter breakout groups, which will constitute its subcommittees. There will also be a steering committee made up of local planning old hands. Finally, the governance committee will be made up of the leaders of the community organizations that choose to participate in the master plan. The second of the series of four charrettes will be on Friday, January 8, 7 to 9 p.m., continuing on Saturday, January 9, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (The third will be on April 5 and the fourth on June 21.)
— Annie Lovell
November 25, 2009
Spevak: Plan won't sit on the shelf.
Middleton: RP area plan will be a national model.
Clarke: Plan must be social as well as physical.
Historical preservation group, chair Donald Kann at right.
Future development group, chairs David Tufaro and Shelley Sehnert at, respectively, far left and fourth from left.
(Click to enlarge.)
Photos and multimedia: D.P. Munro