The City Council is considering two bills that would create tougher zoning restrictions for industries that use toxic chemicals in the Brooklyn-Curtis Bay communities of South Baltimore.
Two community associations requested the bills, which were introduced at last night's council meeting. Brooklyn-Curtis Bay residents and industry representatives are expected to clash when hearings are held on the bills.
One bill would require council approval before new industries could operate on land zoned M-2 or M-3 in Brooklyn-Curtis Bay.
Currently, new industries must only obtain the appropriate permits, and council approval is not required to operate in M-2 or M-3 districts, which are zoned for heavy industry, said Councilman Edward L. Reisinger, D-6th, who introduced the bill.
The bill also would require firms already operating in the area to seek approval from the zoning board before expanding. Currently, industries obtain the required permits from the city and state before expanding.
The zoning restrictions would apply in an area known as a Residential/Heavy Industrial Buffer Overlay District encompassing the Brooklyn-Curtis Bay area. A companion bill would set up the district, which includes a 2,000-foot buffer between a district zoned residential and new industries coming into an M-2 or M-3 zone.
Brooklyn and Curtis Bay are surrounded by heavy industry and waste dumps, and have a history of dealing with chemical spills, oil storage fires and unhealthy air.
Two years ago, the community vehemently, but unsuccessfully, opposed the location of a new medical waste incinerator near Curtis Bay.
Dolores Barnes, president of Concerned Citizens for a Better Brooklyn, said the measures are an effort to see if residents and industry can live together better.
"This legislation merely means that we won't have any more surprises by industry dealing with toxic products using the bureaucratic permit process to sneak into the community," said Barnes.
But a spokesman for a group of South Baltimore industries, the Alliance for South Baltimore's Future, called the bills vague and misguided.
Jerry McPhee, chairman of the alliance, said the bills would lower property values and would do nothing to benefit the environment.
"An owner of industrial zoned land will have a very difficult time trying to attract an industry to locate in this area," said McPhee who is the director of governmental relations for Island Creek Corp., which owns the Curtis Bay coal pier.
As the alliance interprets one of the bills, McPhee said, if a company wanted to add an employee cafeteria, it would require zoning board approval "and that is ridiculous."
McPhee said the idea for the bills resulted from a task force that was formed by the city to resolve problems between industry and residents in Brooklyn and Curtis Bay.