Planning Commission OKs redevelopment of contaminated land BALTIMORE CITY

April 23, 1993|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Staff Writer

Assured that their actions would not obligate the city to spend money or leave it vulnerable to lawsuits, members of Baltimore's Planning Commission approved City Council legislation yesterday that would permit redevelopment of the chrome-contaminated AlliedSignal Inc. property near the Inner Harbor.

The 4-1 vote came after more than five hours of testimony about the proposed $200 million development plan, one of the first cases nationally in which the owner of a site contaminated by toxic wastes has attempted to cap it off and prepare it for development.

While much of the testimony favored the development plan and the clean-up campaign launched by AlliedSignal, owner of nearly 20 acres around Wills and Philpot streets, a small but ardent group warned that the commission should not approve the legislation unless it is revised to place more restrictions on development.

Opponents said the buildings that would be permitted under the proposed legislation were too tall, out of scale with Fells Point and likely to cause traffic problems. They argued that more of the land ought to be set aside as open space.

But Planning Commission Chairman Stelios Spiliadis and others

said that the legislation had been revised already to address some of the community's concerns and that there will be more opportunities for community review. He said any defects in the current legislation could be addressed with amendments before the City Council's land use subcommittee holds a hearing in May June.

"I'm delighted that there are articulate individuals in the community who are involved in the review process," he said. "There is still plenty of time to work on this."

AlliedSignal has been seeking passage of the legislation by the end of June as part of its campaign to redevelop of the former chrome plant property, with construction starting in 1997.

The council bills would permit construction of up to 2 million square feet of offices, residences and shops, with the tallest building rising 180 feet -- about 16 stories. There also would be a waterfront promenade, garages for 2,600 cars, 9.6 acres of parks and possibly a 3,000-to 4,000-seat arts center.

Proponents said the project would give Baltimore another opportunity to revitalize its waterfront.

But Terry Harris, a local member of the Sierra Club, said he was concerned that work crews repairing a sewer line or digging with a backhoe decades from now might unknowingly puncture the cap and disturb the contaminated area underneath -- leaving the city open to lawsuits.

City Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge, D-2nd, said the city should consider adding language to the legislation or drafting an agreement with AlliedSignal that would indemnify the city in case the cap breaks for any reason.

City planners said Baltimore's law department is already negotiating with AlliedSignal on legal agreements that would protect the city.

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