Middle River project delayed

Balto. County wants more citizen discussion of revitalization plan

November 30, 2001|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

The plan for a much-awaited waterfront destination on Middle River has been delayed several months, prompting a Baltimore County official to warn against catering to special interest groups.

The tourist destination at the headwaters of the river - the 20-acre centerpiece of the county's east-side revitalization - is expected to anchor an expanse of nearby single-family homes, an upscale restaurant, a fish market, a boardwalk, a community center and a park.

Planners hired by the county to design the marina complex had been expected to produce a plan this month, but officials wanted to get past the busy holiday season to ensure greater community input.

"We were looking at November, then December, and rather than rush the concept plan I decided to wait past the holidays, giving the citizens ample opportunity to further discuss the project," said William Jones, the county official leading the waterfront development.

Jones said a 12-member advisory group formed to collect ideas or suggestions from local residents and merchants has met once, in October. The county has heard from a group representing marina interests but has not received any input from homeowners or small-business owners, Jones said.

Yesterday, County Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, a Perry Hall Democrat, cautioned that the project should not lose valuable time or give greater consideration to "special interests."

"To create a consensus is wise, and that is what should be done," said Gardina. "But the objective here is to revitalize Essex and Middle River, not to cater to special interests who will benefit at the expense of the taxpayers."

Whitman Requardt & Associates, a Baltimore architectural, engineering and planning firm, is working with planners from EDSA & Associates of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to come up with a plan for Middle River.

Plans call for the destination point to be built of three underused commercial marinas, Buedel's, Riley's and Cutter's. Owners of the three are negotiating with county officials to modernize their businesses or sell to developers.

One group interested in the project is the Marine Trades Association, an alliance of about 70 marina owners who help account for the more $130 million in annual marine-related business in Baltimore County.

John Polek, the group's president, said yesterday that he wrote to Jones detailing the association's interests and concerns regarding the waterfront destination.

"We felt we wanted to play a part in helping with the project," said Polek, owner of Sunset Marina on Norman Creek.

The group wanted to suggest additions to, and deletions from, three proposals county planners made public Oct. 3, he said. The group is concerned about a suggestion that boat-rack storage be built at the new marina complex.

The multilayered devices "would take away from the amenities that most people expect to see there," Polek said.

Many commercial marinas along the county's 175-mile shoreline have boat racks.

The association also wants to block proposals for small cottages on the waterfront destination site and said it favors a hotel and conference center.

Polek said the group has recommended further dredging of the river's headwaters. The depth is about 6 feet near the three marinas and about 4 feet closer to the Eastern Boulevard bridge. The main channel depth is about 10 feet, Polek said. Other concerns are parking and natural buffers.

"These questions are important but there will be others from different folks in the area," Polek said. "What is important is that we sense the project gaining momentum, having more support."

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