Council OKs rock crushing operation

Bell also served with suit by activist he expelled from September meeting

April 13, 1999|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

The City Council had an unusually active agenda yesterday -- approving a Northeast Baltimore rock crushing operation, receiving a lawsuit from a city activist and introducing legislation to borrow $41 million.

Council President Lawrence A. Bell III cast a critical vote to approve the rock crushing operation proposed by Phipps Construction Contractors Inc. at 4300 Shannon Drive.

Residents of the Frankford, Belair-Edison, Parkside, Claremont, Armistead Gardens and 4 X 4 neighborhoods fought the proposal, fearing increased noise, truck traffic, air pollution and potential runoff into Herring Run.

Randy Phipps purchased the 23-acre site three years ago after being awarded a city contract to demolish vacant and abandoned houses.

Residents complained that Phipps gained favor as a campaign contributor to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke in 1995.

After the approval by the council, Phipps dismissed the assertion and agreed to limit his rock crushing operation to 15-day stretches four times a year and to not crush rubble on the weekend or at night.

The council voted 10-6 -- one member abstained and two others were absent -- to approve Phipps' request. Bell's support proved critical because he abstained on previous votes, hoping to locate an alternate site.

"Most of us have recognized that [Phipps] is not a bad guy and that he is doing a service for the city of Baltimore," Bell said before casting his vote.

About two dozen residents who opposed the rubble operation vowed to retaliate against council members who supported it by campaigning against them during municipal elections set for later this year.

"These [council] people that are voting do not live in that neighborhood," said Mary Elaine Gabor of Belair-Edison.

Before yesterday's meeting, activist A. Robert Kaufman served Bell with a $9.3 million suit against the council.

Bell had ordered Kaufman removed from council chambers during a Sept. 28 meeting when the 68-year-old activist was dressed as Greek philosopher Diogenes to gain support for starting a city auto insurance cooperative.

Bell dismissed Kaufman's suit as a nuisance and said municipal law gives him control of supervising council chambers.

Kaufman is a Democratic candidate for mayor.

In other action, the council introduced legislation that would:

* Allow Baltimore to borrow $41 million if approved by city voters in a question on the November ballot. Several council members said yesterday that the money for agencies such as the Police Department and Enoch Pratt Free Library could be held hostage in budget battles this summer.

* Urge the mayor to create an African-American Cultural, Business and Tourist District downtown. Council members have been urging the city to tap into the millions spent annually by black tourists researching their heritage.

* Create a civil penalty for posting signs on public poles. A fine of up to $500 is rarely enforced as a criminal matter. Northeast Baltimore Councilman Robert W. Curran wants to make it a civil penalty enforced by the newly created Environmental Control Board.

* Transfer enforcement of laws governing adult entertainment establishments from the Housing Department to the Board of Liquor License Commissioners.

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