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Remington vs. Business: Why?

Columnist Mike Moran looks at what he feels are his neighborhood's anti-business stances.

 

Just across the street from our long struggling North Baltimore community of Remington, there now exists two conjoined businesses that are simultaneously bringing new life to the area—and excess fat to my gut.

Sweet 27, formally Sweet Sin, and Meet 27, are a locally owned bakery and fine dining restaurant, respectively. Both locations are enjoying stellar reviews and are the only all-gluten-free eateries in Baltimore, which means I don’t need to take a nap after I gorge myself on their sesame chicken and house made cupcakes.

“Part of the reason we decided to settle in Remington last year, was Sweet 27 being down the street," said Michael Colligan, a gluten allergic customer.

Unique, independent, trendy—Sweet 27 and Meet 27 are the type of businesses a struggling community like Remington would give its first born son for, right?

Well, apparently not.

At least not in the eyes of the Remington Neighborhood Alliance, who, through Vice President Joan Floyd, have been battling the businesses in court since 2010 citing a fear that a fine dining restaurant could conceivably pass their license to a less savory establishment at a later date in time.

Geez, if we’re going to structure our neighborhood around what might happen in the future, perhaps we should start accounting for jet pack traffic.

"Every day we don’t have a liquor license, we lose money, because people come in and leave," owner Richard D'Souza said. "I could (still) go out of business from the lawyer fees."

D'Souza said he is confident they will win the fight for the license, and currently the restaurant is a bring-your-own-beer establishment.

Ah, American Rule for attorney’s fees, what will we do with you?

It’s not just liquor licenses and Wal-Monsters the Remington Neighborhood Alliance opposes.

Cresmont Lofts had the audacity to try and attract Hopkins students to the area by building a seven story apartment complex. The RNA pursued them through every legal means possible before it was built, and fought in court to have it demolished after it was constructed

Why? Apparently it was  "too big and out of character" for the neighborhood. So I guess the decaying garages and dirty, vacant lot preceding it, had more of that "classic" Remington feel.

Years before that, that area was kept from becoming an upscale lounge called Inferno, aimed at folks 30 and over. Floyd insisted that the result would be the whole neighborhood becoming an all-night party spot.

Well, if you haven’t noticed, much of Remington already is, only the party drugs of choice aren’t regulated by law and the partyers aren’t checked for ID.

Floyd said the reasons for her group's legal actions are for "maintaining the community's character." A drive through the neighborhood, however, may force one to question what character she’s referring to.

Is it the littered streets, the boarded-up houses, the open air drug markets?

While many neighboring North Baltimore communities, such as Hampden and Charles Village, are continuing to enjoy a growing renaissance among the artistic and scholastic community, the Gentrification Fairy seems to have skipped over Remington. In my opinion, even a big, ugly Wal-Mart could spruce things up (relatively speaking).

In Floyd’s defense, many Baltimoreans have applauded her efforts. She was praised for her part in barring the reopening of rowdy Remington dive Hard Times in 2002, and the City Paper named her “do gooder of the year” in 2007, citing her "government watch dog" efforts.

I couldn’t get a comment from Floyd regarding the RNA's legal battles against local businesses, though she pointed out to me in an email that Remington's housing market is on the upswing, highlighting the recent rehabbing of vacant houses by the Sewall Development corp, the purchase of the formerly vacant houses in the 300 block of W. 28th Street, and the fact that "we (of Remington) no longer meet the qualifications for an Enterprise Zone Focus Area."

Not everyone in Remington stands behind Floyd and the RNA. The often rivaling Greater Remington Improvement Association focuses more on things like planting attractive greenery and organizing neighborhood festivals, than forcing entrepreneurs to spend money in court. Of businesses moving into the area, GRIA founder Eric Imhoff has stated in The Baltimore Sun, "We think an active corner is safer than an inactive one."

I challenge anyone to drive through Remington one day and disagree with that statement.

Now, I’m going to go shut down these kid’s lemonade stand before they are forced to lawyer up.

Christian June 05, 2012 at 03:08 PM
This message is directed to Austin Graves and while I believe in what you stated, I would like to inform you of a few things. We lived accross the street from Rootie Kazooties, the Loyola University underage bar similarily located on 27th Street in Charles Village. This bar moved in after a few good restaurants couldn't make it in the community and finally was rented to the bar known as Rootie Kazooties. Each evening was a horror when the bar closed down and the students came flowing out into the street and caused pure hell for the neighbors on the block. We signed petitions, noted the problems, advised the Liquor Board, had meetings in our house, wrote letters after letters in an effort to close down the bar. A student was thrown through the plate glass window and still the bar retained its license to operate. We went to hearings year after year and pleaded with the Liquor Board and it was only after the owners of the bar threatened a student whose father was an attorney and an important government official that the bar was shut down. During the owner's departure from the bar he threatened me with bodily harm and I can assure you I was quite concerned. It is not easy to close down a bar with a liquor license as the city makes good money from these establishments. No one can forcase the future, but please consider what we had to accept on a nightly basis.
Able Baker June 06, 2012 at 03:49 AM
Please, finish your sentence. Oh, did you just want to make unfounded accusations through innuendo? Oh well, carry on then.
lifein remington June 06, 2012 at 01:29 PM
Christian-what do you mean similarly located at 27th street. Are you referring to Meet27. Have you been there? Do you know about the neighborly agreement Meet27 signed with GRIA and CVCA. Do you know that the restaurant regardless of who operates it is bound by time restrictions. Do you know that the two associations have input on any new operators in the future. You cannot forecast the future but if you care you can have input into it.
Christian June 06, 2012 at 06:37 PM
To "lifein remington" - I live on 27th street, and know that Meet27 is located on 27th street and Howard Street. I walk by Meet27 several times a week as I have for a number of years. A MOU signed by GRIA and the CVCA holds no legal binding between the two and is something that cannot be used as a legal instrument. A MOU is similar to a PUD, it is a fluff and stuff thing that is agreed upon between parties but has no legal mechanisms to bind the two parties to the agreements entered into. So despite the existence of such a document a future owner of the restaurant is not legally bound by that agreement. The two associations may report that they will have "input on any new operations in the future" but the MOU is not a document that can be used to force the new owner to abide by those agreements. You are correct, I cannot forecast the future, but neither can you and therefore, if and when the restaurant is sold to whomever, there is no guarantee that the owners will abide by the MOU entered into between the current owner and the two associations.
Able Baker June 06, 2012 at 10:08 PM
Not true, the liquor board has started enforcing community agreements. Besides, if a new owner/operator came in, they would have to have a transfer hearing in which the community would have input. You'll recall that the first operator of the Meet27 space (who formerly ran the nightclub over Tambers and some stripclub downtown) was rejected based on community input from both the CVCA and GRIA.
Christian June 07, 2012 at 12:22 PM
Just to set the record straight here, you cannot enforce MOU's if they are not legally binding on the parties, just as you cannot enforce PUD's. They both represent agreements made with communities that are not legally binding on the parties involved. Several members of our community have attempted to get the city to enforce a PUD on 32nd Street without success as there is nothing behind these agreements which would allow the city to take action and therefore despite all of the agreements with the community the city has not been able to enforce these agreements. Unless the liquor board has dramatically changed, they will always side with the operator over the community to such an extent where they will grant a license to a place that hasn't had one for years. I am only attempting to caution you since we fought for three years to have a bar closed and learned a great deal during that period of time.
Austin Graves June 07, 2012 at 01:01 PM
Oh, well in that case Christian, lets just keep the drug dealers in front of abandoned store fronts instead of taking a risk to do something better. At least with drug dealers we know that they are danger to the neighborhood, we wouldn't want to put a store, bar or restaurant in and possibly, in ten years, maybe, have a small chance of a problem. Good job.
Austin Graves June 07, 2012 at 01:09 PM
Christian, can you really, honestly, tell yourself that you'd rather have an open drug market than a new store, restaurant or bar? A couple of months ago a dealer was yelling, YELLING in front of my house his price for his drugs he had with him. I walked over to him and screamed at him to leave my block and never to come back. He did. Never saw him again. I believe that the store owners and restaurant owners will not put up with it, especially if they have out door seating and these dealers will move on. Sorry if you are worried about down the road, but I'm more worried about the now. I'd used to take my kids on walks on a daily bases until two times in a row a drug deal went down right in front of my stroller. Yeah. You aren't going to convince me that your what-if attitude is the best thing for this community.
Able Baker June 07, 2012 at 03:02 PM
That's not correct. Community agreements are now attached as terms of the liquor license. I can't speak to how they operated in the past.
Able Baker June 07, 2012 at 03:05 PM
That's a little farfetched. The choices are not bar or open-air drug market. Lets not be ridiculous. Certainly well traveled, well used street reduce the opportunity for things like that, but it doesn't mean communities should roll over and take whatever is proposed to them. Communities need to be actively engaged in who is doing business in their neighborhood, the problem is that the RNA doesn't seem to want *anyone* doing business.
Christian June 08, 2012 at 12:44 PM
Gentlemen: If in fact neighborhood agreements are attached to liquor license's and have some weight in a court of law and also in deciding what will be considered by the Liquor Board, then that is indeed a good thing and something that should be considered. I think that statement will be decided at some later date and until now I still believe my statement is valid. Now with respect to the drug dealing in the neighborhood, I believe that continual calls to the Police Authorities and to your elected governmental officials may be a vehicle you might want to explore. I would not favor your physical approach as a resolution to the problem because the drug dealer may have a gun and why put your child and yourself in a position of being physically hurt? Drug activity takes place all over the city and Remington has the same problem as other communities do. For example if you shop at CVS and Safeway you will have experienced some drug activity and they are not located in Remington. You might want to call the BCPD and have them do a survey of activity in Remington, or alternatively use your cell phone and take pictures from a distance of the activity and send it to your counsel representative. Don't confront these dealers and in particular don't confront these dealers with your children in tow.
betterbaltimoredev June 18, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Ah, Tom Culotta, a man who lives off the community and does anything he can to keep himself in a job. For years tom has tried to shout down anyone who doesn't agree with him. And his school...a joke. Tom hasn't done anything in Remington since his supporters found out he is just out for his own well being. Let's see the Jones Falls Community Organization kicked in off their board , the GHCC kicked him off their board. And the only think he has left is his relationship with MaryPat Clarke and his "school". He just sucks the life out of anyone who doesn't agree with him. And to say to "...hide behind the law..." is just funny for Tom has done this for years, manipulating people and anyone else he can.
betterbaltimoredev June 18, 2012 at 08:15 PM
Right on Christian. These yoyos don't know anything. When the developer of the 25th Station PUTS INTO THE RECORD before the city council that the MOU's are not enforceable and these guys keep saying they are, just shows they are not knowledgeable about the law. And if the developer or bar owner don't keep to the MOU, the community organization has to go to court...and that does not mean the court will find the breach in the MOU in their favor. These persons writing their responses never have had to go through this process. Such kind hearted people they are. And this is what Remington needs: more bars, maybe some strip bars. I never hear them state what we need in better roads, a local school, a firehouse, a library or anything that makes a good neighborhood. They just like to party. They sound like JHU kids.
betterbaltimoredev June 18, 2012 at 08:17 PM
Why not a library, a fire house, a recreation center. Can you tell me you rather have bars in the neighborhood? We can see where your interests are.
Tom Culotta June 20, 2012 at 01:41 PM
To "betterbaltimoredev" - I'm not sure who you are, what the root of your anger and bitterness is, or why you choose to direct it at me with lies and uninformed opinions. I did serve as President of both GHCC and JFCC Boards many years ago and was never asked to leave, but rather left to continue to focus on the education work that has been the focus of my life. The school that you claim is a joke has honorably served students for over 3 decades. All of our students are better for the experience of being a part of our school and a large number have gone on to college and career with success. One of our students, who came to us as a drug user and drop-out, just a few weeks ago earned his Master in Library Science degree from the University of Maryland. We owe our success to the large numbers of volunteers and supporters from the community who both created and sustain our program. Our program has been visited and observed by educators both locally and nationally, all of whom have left with strong words of support. The best endorsement of our program, however, comes from our students and their families who appreciate the success that they find at The Community School. I'm not surprised at the negativity or vitriol thrown our way. This has too often been a pattern among some. Our response is to keep our eyes, energy, and hearts on our mission to "serve young people in the Remington area who wish to advance their education, improve their lives and better their community."
Able Baker June 20, 2012 at 04:33 PM
To be fair, none of us would go to court about the sort of penny-ante nonsense that the RNA likes to go to court over, so we're really comparing apples and oranges.
Able Baker June 20, 2012 at 05:18 PM
I'm pretty sure it's Doug Armstrong.
Tom Culotta June 21, 2012 at 02:38 AM
It seems to me that decent folks should own the words that they say rather than make targeted attacks presented as facts while hiding behind anonymity. Of course decency would dictate both relevancy and accuracy and courage would require transparency and openness. It is a sign of the decline of civil dialogue and one of the obstacles to real debate and progress. Sadly, it is one of the reasons that many folks are turned off to the political process on both a local and national level. Stirring up fear and hatred is the other side of this tactic. Some folks just can't be pleased and see demons behind every door. When there is so much good work to do, some folks find fault in everything whether it is folks wanting to sit at tables outside a local tavern or whether it is young people investing in their education and future behind a desk 10 hours a day like our students. "Betterbaltimoredev" should reveal his or her identity and explain why it was found necessary in this debate to attack me and our school and this should be followed with substantiation of the statements made. Or perhaps the person was just a little wound up, misspoke and would have the character to apologize.
Baltimore Matt June 22, 2012 at 02:36 AM
Joan and Doug...no one likes you and you should move to a nice gated community in the suburbs where you can ensure that you will never have commercial growth/change encroach on your neighborhood... Truth is you don't because you get too much power from making a stink over everything. You have proven that if you want to start a business in Remington you will have to spend half of your savings, just to fight in court, to open. All you want is... POWER... you don't make concessions, you don't make suggestions, you just mobilize one thing and one thing only and that is NO!
Christian June 24, 2012 at 02:17 PM
Truth being told, I like Joan and Doug. I believe that they are attempting to do something necessary to protect the neighborhood, but a group of people don't understand and/or respect this fact, so they have decided to launch this campaign in which they created a forum of intolerance. I happen to know a lot of people who also like Joan and Doug who respect the fact that they have accomplished a great deal for the neighborhood. Joan and Doug support business and change, provided that change and business doesn't destroy the neighborhood. I have personally had meetings with Joan and Doug, been in meetings with Joan and Doug on issues involving our communities and have never heard them say that they were against change and commercial business operations unless it was contrary to the organic development of a neighborhood. So I don't understand why all this pent up hate has been created or why it has suddenly festered and exploaded, unless it is being directed by someone or some organization. Joan and Doug have worked in the community for years to its benefit and you should really begin considering what the neighborhood might have been like without their work.
Able Baker June 26, 2012 at 01:29 PM
There's no conspiracy behind the dislike of Doug and Joan. They're bullies who push the agenda of a small group of people over the greater community. If they indeed support commercial development, what new businesses have they supported?
Tom Smith June 26, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Doug and Joan simply want to make the community in their image and abuse the court system to that end, plain and simple. Go house to house and you will find that over 75 percent of the community opposes them.
haha July 06, 2012 at 09:11 PM
99% of the time gentrification is progress in the right direction... except for the people who live there, but it is inevitable anyway as you can't stop progress. SO DEAL WITH IT!
bill cunningham July 07, 2012 at 09:51 PM
Doug and Joan do this to obtain POWER.They gain their POWER by saying NO.They gain no power by saying yes.They do little or nothing for this community.The seldom,if ever, pickup trash,they don't maintain a park that Mary Pat created for them(28 th street) and have always refused to confront the drug dealing issues that Remington continues to have.They obstruct to have POWER.The RNA will forever be called by me the REMINGTON NEGATIVE ASSOCIATION.
bill cunningham July 07, 2012 at 10:06 PM
The city could stop them.They can sue for damages because their suits are without merit.
bill cunningham July 27, 2012 at 12:39 PM
In the past RNA(Doug & Joan) have refused to allow anyone not selected by them to run for the board.I know this to true.
Kathleen C. Ambrose August 11, 2012 at 01:54 PM
WOW! I'm glad this thread has finally died, though I love the smell of vitriol in the morning. There's a RNA meeting on August 14 at 7pm at the Wyman Park Center and a GRIA meeting August 20 at 7pm at Kromer Hall. I expect everyone of you to attend. ,
bill cunningham September 04, 2012 at 03:00 AM
WHAT HAS RNA DOWN FOR THE COMMUNITY
GSP September 07, 2012 at 12:42 AM
Kathleen, where does the RNA list their meetings? I had no idea they had a meeting last month since I don't check the bottom of a long comment thread every day :-). I aas searching for them online and found http://remingtononline.org/?page_id=26 but the calendar seems empty and doesn't list anything for 8/14.
Kathleen C. Ambrose September 23, 2012 at 03:18 PM
GSP The RNA newsletter, which most Remington residents should receive, lists meeting times and places. The meetings are held the second Tuesday of each month at 7:00pm, usually at the Wyman Park Center. I told Joan I would administrate the RNA website, but she never responded

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