City to pay $400,000 to replace floating walkway in Canton

Couldn't these funds be better spent on rec centers, asks Jack Young.

floating promenade1

The floating walkway in Canton, the subject of a lengthy dispute between the city and developer.

Photo by: Mark Reutter

((UPDATE: The Board of Estimates approved the $400,000 expenditure today, but not without dissent. City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young voted against the agreement. His spokesman, Lester Davis, said Young saw no reason why the city shouldn’t take up the developer’s offer to install a new floating promenade at no charge to the city.

((“That way you can immediately funnel these funds to rec centers,” Davis said, referring to the threatened closing of municipal rec facilities due to budget cutbacks that Young has opposed.

((City Comptroller Joan M. Pratt abstained from voting, while Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and her two appointees, City Solicitor George Nilson and Public Works Director Alfred H. Foxx, voted in favor.))

So long floating promenade. The city has reached an agreement with a developer and Canton homeowners to replace a waterborne walkway that skirts pricey townhouses with a brick promenade attached to the shoreline.

The Board of Estimates is expected this morning to stamp its approval on the plan, which will end a 10-year-old dispute and bitter lawsuit between the city, developer Selvin Passen and townhouse owners at the Moorings at Canton.

The city will pay $400,000 of the estimated $1-million-plus cost of replacing the floating walkway with a shore-attached promenade.

Companies controlled by Passen will pay the remaining cost of “$600,000 or more,” while the homeowners association will foot the bill for repairs allowing the new promenade to be attached to the bulkhead, according to city documents.

Slugging it Out

The agreement trumps Passen’s original offer to replace the current structure with an improved floating promenade free of charge to the city.

Passen and others argued that building the promenade on land was impractical and a waste of taxpayers’ money. The city countered that the developer was obliged to build the walkway on the shoreline and was shirking his responsibilities.

Under the compromise plan, the new promenade will extend from the concrete shoreline on piers and not encroach on the backyards of the townhouses. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

Under the compromise plan, the new promenade will extend from the concrete shoreline on piers and not encroach on the backyards of the townhouses. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

Both cited the handicapped to bolster their position – Passen saying his walkway bridge would be fully ADA-compliant, while the city arguing that a land-hugging promenade was safer.

About a dozen homeowners whose properties faced the water were drawn into the controversy when they were included in a lawsuit filed by the city in Baltimore City Circuit Court in 2010.

Since then, the suit was subject to more than 100 separate filings as the City Solicitor’s Office and members of the gated community slugged it out.

Construction of the promenade – matching the specifications of the brick walkway that extends around the harbor from South Baltimore to Canton – should be completed by early 2013, according to Thomas J. Stosur, chief of the Department of Planning.

Yesterday ducks fed along the disputed bulkhead, from which a new promenade is set to extend out on the water on piers. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

Yesterday ducks fed along the disputed bulkhead. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

“We’re pleased to resolve this issue without further protracted legal proceedings being necessary,” Stosur said yesterday.

“We think it is a fair settlement that meets both the priorities of the homeowners association and the goals of the city.”

The settlement will allow the owners of 14 townhouses to retain their backyard patios and other structures that encroach on the city’s 10-foot easement between the bulkhead and the properties.

Kevin J. Pascale, who represented the homeowners association and several other parties in the dispute, said he was not authorized to speak about the settlement.

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  • CityHallSucks.

    It is interesting to see the City fight so hard for this walkway in a lovely neighborhood and agree to contribute $400k to the creation of a new promenade. It clearly appears they will continue to spend money in the pretty places and the areas with vacant homes that line East Baltimore can continue to get ignored. 

    • freddie

      Money follows money.

    • David Kennedy

      Pols respond to the ones that brought um.  As in those who vote.
      Poor people don’t vote.  They’re apathetic [and no, that’s Not the opposite of pathetic, quite the contrary].  Therefore, they are not represented, and this is natural selection.  
      Why would any pol, seeking to stay in their exalted position, give 2 shakes to those who cannot be bothered to unplug, wander to the polling place, and pull a lever or 3?  The answer is, they won’t.  Simple, and logical, really.

      What is Not logical is how those-who-do-vote are shocked, shocked about the cynicism of our “elected” leaders.  It’s not cynicism, it’s smart.  Why care about those who don’t care about you?  It’s called politics for a reason.

      The poor do Nothing to help themselves, in general; the liberals bend over backwards to help those who will not help themselves; the conservatives smirk at the futility of it all; and the beat goes on.  And every once in a century or so, the poor get so downtrodden by the whole entropy-laden  mess that they “rise up” {finally, getting up off their lazy-boyz}, throw the “bums” out {ironic use of “bums” intended}, and the dance begins anew.

      To finally conclude, yeah, I have a really hard time mustering up any sympathy for those who don’t care, at a minimum, about their own existence.  When in doubt, or in a cloud, blame it on someone else.  Here’s the good news:  the O’s are tied for first.  Finally, human progress.

      • GovansGirl

         And you live where…? If in the City, it’s not where I live, then, as I watch people daily being up off their behinds working three jobs just to keep afloat (pun intended here too…).   The ‘poor’ will vote when there is a credible choice to be had – a shoe-in who employs her 5th grade friends is B’More as usual and they’re already sick of it. 

        Cynicism like yours is the reason that only 26,000 went  to pull that lever…  the rest of the qualified were either disaffected, angry or cynical like you but certainly NOT lazy.  Keep it up Dave, the City will weed you out eventually when you move to the County  but continue to throw stones… 

        • Barnadine the Pirate

          Actually, the poor vote . . . but for the same corrupt, stupid, venal incumbents EVERY TIME. Judging from the city’s voting history, wealthy people will vote out inept incumbents, but poor people will pull the lever they are told to pull. Helen Holton, Pete Welch, anyone named “Conaway” — many city politicians are not elected on merit. (I think Belinda Conaway lost her job because Reservoir Hill had an uptick in educated, relatively affluent voters, for example, who cared more about competence and fitness for office than who her father was.)

          Incumbents benefit greatly from inertia, no matter what their constituency looks like. But judging from results, inertia counts a LOT more in the poor neighborhoods than it does in the relatively wealthy ones.

          Back when Little Italy and Fells Point were largely poor or working class neighborhoods, someone like Mimi DiPetro could be endlessly re-elected despite being a functionally illiterate buffoon. Now that these parts of east Baltimore are home to a more educated, affluent voter base, he wouldn’t stand a chance, no matter what Democratic machine he was a part of.

          As a lifelone Democrat, I really, really wish Baltimore had a viable two-party system. I don’t care what that other party is — Republican, Green, Pirate, Libertarian, ANYTHING that would force incumbents to be accountable and to face meaningful electoral challenges from time to time. But I don’t think apathy is caused by the one-party rule the City suffers from; I think apathy causes the one-party rule.

          • Maryland Working Families Part

            You’re right Barnadine.  The incumbents in the city and all of Maryland have nobody to keep them in check.  Keep an eye out for the Working Families Party in 2014.  They are new to Marryland but looking to make their presence known. 

  • Mark Adams

    The existing floating walkway is quite enjoyable. The taxpayers are shelling out $400K to pay for a grudge match between some city planners and the developers. For this we will get a less enjoyable promenade. Go figure.

  • No Red Line

    This city is run by idiots. If the HOA and the developer want to pay for a new floating structure then the city should bank 400K and let them do it. To hell with some nit wits ego in city hall. 

  • Daniel E

    If done right, the new promenade can help with Healthy Harbor’s efforts to improve water quality. Could be used as an anchor for wetlands, oxygenate water, or can simply just control storm water runoff.

  • scott meek

    I don’t see this as a problem.  The city boasts that you can walk from Fed Hill to Canton all along the water the whole way, and that’s a really nice thing to have in conjunction with all the development along the water.  It is a benefit to the city and the community there on the water, so I don’t see a problem with the money split and the developers paying more (as it lends to the appeal of their properties).  And as Daniel E says below, let’s see them take it a step further and ensure it is ecologically beneficial and maybe even part of the Clean Harbor project.  Why not?

  • Jason Lancaster

    I don’t know anything about the ecological impact of a change like this (for better or worse) but as a general comment from someone living in Canton, I really like the uniqueness of the floating walkway that is currently there. Why fight so hard instead of saving this money for other efforts?

  • Jamie Schott

    ADA compliant?  If I’m not mistaken every entrance to that promenade is by ramp.  And yea, I like the floating aspect of it all.  Tell me again why the city is forking over $400K when the developer is willing the put in another floating promenade for free?  Waste.

  • Canton resident

    There seem to be a few missing details from this article…According to the Sun in 2010: 

    “The developer had promised a permanent walkway, built on land, since the project’s inception, [city officials] say…And in 2008, they say, Passen signed a memorandum of understanding pledging to remove the floating promenade and build a walkway extending over the water.”

    Also, the City has easement rights up to 20 feet from the waters edge, where the fancy lawns and patios presently reside.

  • FormerCityResident

    Please include the important facts provided by “Canton resident” below! The bottom line of this issue is that developers who make agreements should be forced to keep them. Sadly, due to the length of this issue a few of these facts have been lost in the weeds.  

  • BaltimoreSupporter77

    As an owner of a property
    in the Moorings, the developer and his agents were unethical from the
    start.  The easements required the developer to build the houses in a
    manner to permit the new promenade, but to make more money they blew
    it off.

    As a home owner, I was
    also lied to, but for my own self interest, I am glad I don’t have to foot
    the bill for the new promenade through a special assessment that raises my
    HOA fees.  As a city resident, it is wrong that the developer isn’t made
    to pay the full cost or just keep the existing floating promenade and call it a
    day.  The only semi-fair part of the agreement is that the
    developer  is made to pay more money and I hope their legal fees  in
    this battle, bankrupt them.  – Full disclosure, I am a bitter owner, 
    those houses were poorly constructed, not worth the cost, and some purchasers
    were lied to from the start.  The HOA tried to sue the developer too but
    our incompetent lawyers costs us so much that I believe an
    alliance with the developer became palatable.  Plus the rich
    homeowners with water front property always win.

  • Curtis

    Good article selection, Mark, and thank you, Canton resident, for providing the information on the Memorandum of Understanding signed by Passen pledging the floating promenade.

    That said, any document can be amended.  The floating promenade was an accidental success.  It’s different.  It’s fun and relaxing to walk around.  The city and a private business save a few dollars.  The City can keep its easement in perpetuity.  I’m sentimental.    If only it were that simple.  
    As I see it — with limited information — if the development entity dissolves and the floating promenade falls apart or gets destroyed in a hurricane, then either the City (and/or the HOA) would have to cover the cost of the fixing the floating promenade or building a new permanent promenade.  Risk: the public loses everything.  Best to get the developer to pay for a permanent walkway now.

  • George Lopez

    The City shouldn’t pay a dime. Passen tried to hoodwink them and almost got away with it. Let him pay the full cost.

  • George Lopez

    The whole floating walkway was just leftover material from Passen’s marina project down in Florida.

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