Council revives bill giving city authority to seize, redevelop industrial property

Revised proposal to state areas' homes are exempt

February 11, 2003|By Tom Pelton and Doug Donovan | Tom Pelton and Doug Donovan,SUN STAFF

The City Council voted last night to reverse its decision last month to kill a bill that would expand city government power to seize properties for redevelopment projects.

Councilman Robert W. Curran, who represents Northeast Baltimore's 3rd District, resurrected legislation that the council voted down Jan. 27 because of fears the city could use it to seize homes.

M.J. "Jay" Brodie, president of Baltimore Development Corp., the city's development agency, convinced Curran and other council members during a luncheon yesterday that the bill has nothing to do with residential properties.

"We are talking about reintroducing the bill, making it crystal clear that it does not include residential [land]," Brodie said. "Any lawfully established residence would not be affected by this."

The revised bill will be considered by the council's urban affairs committee. Brodie said the new version would plainly state that homes in areas zoned as industrial would be exempt from targeting for condemnation.

The city needs to pass the ordinance to redevelop empty industrial areas in East, West and South Baltimore that cannot be condemned or added to existing urban renewal ordinances because of an odd quirk in city law, Brodie said. The city has the right to condemn residential or commercial property, but does not have the authority to take industrial property.

Brodie said the city would like to use the revised bill to help it rebuild run-down industrial areas such as the Exxon oil tank field east of Canton and north of Boston Street, the mostly vacant Acme warehouse on West Lafayette Avenue in the Rosemont neighborhood and the Fairfield industrial area along the Patapsco River.

The bill would not affect the Remington neighborhood, Brodie said, although a neighborhood group from the area played a role in raising "conspiracy theories" that led to the bill's defeat last month.

Ward Eisinger, president of the Remington Neighborhood Alliance, said the council must be vigilant with the bill's language. He said Mayor Martin O'Malley and Brodie were putting pressure on the council to pass a bill whose language could leave residences vulnerable to the wrecking ball.

"Homes in commercial districts that are residences could be subject to the condemnation of this bill whether Brodie says they will be or not," Eisinger said. "Brodie's words are not the written law."

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