Sunday, January 29, 2006

Peek Inside Baltimore Development Corp.

from The League: Reassembled

Hooray for the Maryland Court of Special Appeals! Hooray for citizen input and oversight on city development!

The court ruled last Tuesday that the Baltimore Development Corp., the quasi-public agency which makes crucial decisions about development in our town, "must be treated as a public entity and conform with the state's Open Meetings and Public Information acts, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland ruled," according to an article in The Baltimore Sun. This means that the organization, which has hitherto conducted its operations behind closed doors, will be subject to far greater public scrutiny.

The ruling is a victory for Baltimoreans who care about the direction of development in this city. The BDC makes influential decisions that impact the very character of our neighborhoods. Unfortunately, it has been strongly opposed to public input, as demonstrated in a November League post. If put under the purview of the Open Meetings and Public information acts, the organization will likely become more responsive to citizens concerns and less responsive to developers' profit margins.

Without this public oversight, BDC has made some questionable decisions indicating it might not always have the public's best interests in mind. For example, during last summer's debate over the convention center hotel, BDC submitted a plan which called for the project to be financed with public funds because no private investors had made any offers. In the weeks after the proposal was made public, however, numerous private firms stepped forward to offer private investment schemes. In another incident that sparked a City Council investigation, BDC improperly sold pieces of property for $2 million less than their appraised values to developers.

Hopefully suspicious decisions like these and others will become less common once BDC knows its in the public spotlight.

Check out The League's previous postings on BDC and our calls for it to fall under more public scrutiny.

from The League: Reassembled

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