Business expansion in Lochearn stalled

Community protests plan by package handler

January 27, 1999|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

A planned expansion by a package handling company that wants to add more than 60 jobs in the Baltimore area has been stalled by community opposition and by a city agency's refusal to modify the building plans at Seton Business Park.

Baltimore County Economic Development Director Robert L. Hannon yesterday withdrew a request before the County Council to rezone 20 acres in the business park, which is owned by the city and straddles the city-county border.

Hannon said the county could no longer support the planned expansion of RPS Inc. because Baltimore Development Corp. -- the city's economic development agency -- would not position the loading docks of the building away from the neighborhood.

The city agency had asked the county to make the zoning change to accommodate an expansion of RPS, a Pittsburgh-based company that employs about 141 workers in a package handling facility on Gough Street in Baltimore. The company wants to build a 115,000-square-foot facility that would employ about 207 people within five years.

Yesterday, RPS spokeswoman Betsy Momich said RPS is rethinking its proposal and might wait until June 2000 to build a facility somewhere in the Baltimore area.

Hannon said the county is continuing to work with the city agency to find a suitable site either at the Seton Business Park or elsewhere in the area.

Officials from the city agency were not available for comment yesterday.

Lochearn residents welcomed the decision to withdraw the rezoning request, but said they remain wary of county and city intentions for the city-owned property near them.

"We still have to keep our eyes open," said Christine Cypress, president of the Lochearn Improvement Association. "We just don't believe the elected officials."

Cypress said the community was suspicious of the proposal because of the urgency the economic development agencies placed on approving the zoning change. "We felt it was going too fast," she said.

Judith Berger, chairwoman of the zoning committee for the Lochearn Improvement Association, said she believed the county backed down because it saw the community's opposition. "It's important they know we're not going to be kicked around," she said.

RPS officials said they would be reconsidering their site requirements and might return to the Seton Business Park.

"In no way does it mean we'll be moving out of Baltimore," said Momich. The company, which employs more than 30,000 people, has been growing rapidly and is looking to expand in a number of areas, including Baltimore, Momich said.

Pub Date: 1/27/99

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