The Anne Arundel County Council approved a bill last night that allows mixed-use development -- offices, shops and apartments -- on the Superblock, the last large parcel in Glen Burnie's urban renewal district and a long-standing eyesore.
The bill amending the urban renewal plan clears the way for the development of a "town center" for the north county community. It was approved 6-0. One council member was absent.
In an urban renewal plan approved in 1980, the 5.6-acre site was earmarked for commercial development only. After consultation with developers interested in submitting plans for the parcel at the intersection of Ritchie Highway near Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard, county planners concluded that the best way to make the land attractive for development was to allow mixed use.
"What we're calling for is a mix of uses" that will include open space, such as an amphitheater that will be used for social and cultural activities, said Patricia Barland, the county's commercial revitalization coordinator.
The land has remained vacant for more than a decade after the existing buildings were razed to make way for a revitalization project. Several council members emphasized that it was important that the project move ahead quickly.
"We've got to do something," said Councilman George Bachman, a Linthicum Democrat. "Nothing's going to happen with an empty lot."
Suzanne Dietz, who served on the original urban renewal committee that recommended commercial development, was a lone voice in opposing the bill. She insisted that the only reason the urban renewal plan could be changed is if the original committee made a mistake -- which she insisted it did not -- or if there was an overriding community need that it be changed.
"We envisioned the highest and best use for it at the time and it takes a while to develop it," Ms. Dietz said. "I believe the modification of the law at this time is illegal."
Ms. Dietz said she was especially concerned that a high-density residential development would run counter to the intentions of urban renewal, and would possibly displace a much-needed facility for cultural events.
But Councilman Carl G. Holland, a Pasadena Democrat, told Ms. Dietz that what may have seemed appropriate in the affluent 1980s will not work in the fiscally lean 1990s.
"The county is going to own a lot of vacant space in Glen Burnie that eventually may attract unwanted businesses in there just to occupy space to bring them back on the tax rolls," Mr. Holland said. "Just to build brick and mortar to make a block look pretty is not going to accomplish what the people of Glen Burnie want to accomplish."
Councilman Edward Middlebrooks, a Severn Democrat, was away on a family emergency, but he sent a letter that was read at the meeting, supporting the legislation.
The council was to discuss later last night Mr. Holland's anti-noise ordinance, which mandates that music from portable radios cannot be heard more than 50 feet away.