Sauerbrey attacks plan for car terminal at port GOP challenger says proposal is redundant, environmental threat

October 14, 1998|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,SUN STAFF

The Glendening administration's plans to build an $18.6 million automobile terminal at the port of Baltimore for a Florida-based company came under sharp attack yesterday from Republican gubernatorial challenger Ellen R. Sauerbrey.

Sauerbrey said developing the terminal would threaten the environment because the port site was used for years as a dumping ground for harbor dredgings. She said the site "has been described as a toxic doughnut filled with black mayonnaise."

In addition, Sauerbrey said, businesses at the port that load and unload automobiles have capacity they aren't using. She questioned the need for another automotive terminal.

Port officials and the Glendening administration disputed her claims yesterday, saying that state environmental testing shows that the site is safe for development. They also said that the automotive terminal is needed, won't threaten businesses and will provide new jobs.

"One has to ask what is going on here," Sauerbrey said, standing outside the gates of the 50-acre site, which would be developed for ATC Logistics of Jacksonville, Fla., under a long-term lease.

"Not only does this property smell, but I think this whole deal smells," she said. "There is no indication that there is a need for this terminal or where these cars are going to come from, other than taking business away from the existing businesses that are here."

The project has been strongly opposed by Hobelmann Port Services Inc., which operates a large auto processing facility across the street from the proposed facility.

The state Board of Public Works has given "conditional approval" to a lease with ATC that calls for that company to pay an average of $146,000 a month over 20 years. ATC says it can sign contracts to handle 60,000 vehicles in its first year of operation, and 125,000 or more after three years.

Officials with the Maryland Port Administration and the Glendening administration rejected Sauerbrey's assertions.

"This project will not harm the environment," said Len N. Foxwell, a Glendening spokesman. "It will, though, bring good-paying jobs to the Baltimore region and redevelop an older industrial property to further enhance the port's economic viability."

M. Kathleen Broadwater, director of planning and development for the MPA, said the port has lost automotive accounts in recent years because there was not enough space to process cars for those companies. "The Port of Baltimore is a major player in the automobile business," Broadwater said. "The Maryland Port Administration in its strategic plan has targeted several niche markets for growth of the port, one of which is automobiles."

John Stierhoff, a lobbyist for ATC, said the company is prohibited under its state contract from taking business from current auto processors. He said concerns about that issue and environmental matters have been addressed.

"These arguments have been reviewed at length by the legislature, as well as the Board of Public Works, and have been found to be without merit," Stierhoff said.

"Our view is that we're bringing 300 new jobs to the port, and certainly our hope is that all elected officials would recognize the impact those jobs would have," he said.

Pub Date: 10/14/98

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