A Critique of the 2006 City of Baltimore Comprehensive Master Plan

September 2006 / Abell Reports / Community Development

This report identifies and discusses the important public policy issues, including possible legal issues, embodied in the plan recommendations.

The Baltimore City Charter requires that the City Planning Commission “adopt and revise a master plan for the proposed physical development of the City.” The Annotated Maryland Code mandates that at least once every six years the City adopt and/or amend a master plan containing various specified elements. The combined master plan requirements of the Charter and the State Code are intended to provide a policy framework for City capital expenditures on transportation, utilities, and other public facilities, as well as for land use and other development regulations and decisions, to assure the orderly development of the City. The State Code also requires the master plan to address the protection of certain sensitive areas and natural resources.

On June 15, 2006, the Baltimore City Planning Commission adopted a City of Baltimore Comprehensive Master Plan, the first new comprehensive plan in 30 years. This action followed many years of preparation, study, community input, and discussion going back to the late 1990s. A resolution (City Council Bill # 06-0466) approving the Plan has been introduced in the Baltimore City Council, with hearings scheduled during September and October of 2006.

The Abell Foundation has for a long time played an important role in the social, economic, and physical development of Baltimore City and its metropolitan area. The Foundation has funded many innovative projects and programs in the fields of education, economic and employment development, social services, cultural development, and transportation. It has also been in the forefront of funding studies and reports about important public policy problems and issues.

In recognition of the significance of the new Plan as a framework for Baltimore’s future social, economic, and physical development, the Abell Foundation has commissioned this report. The purpose is to identify and discuss the important public policy issues (including possible legal issues) embodied in the Plan recommendations; to compare it with the City’s previous comprehensive plan, the Comprehensive Policies Plan, that was adopted in components between 1967 and 1974; to compare the Plan with recent comprehensive plans in other American cities; and to examine the implications of the City Council’s adoption of the new Comprehensive Plan.