County hopes to revitalize blighted spots

Plan allows self-storage units in vacant buildings

April 22, 2003|By Ryan Davis | Ryan Davis,SUN STAFF

After some small tinkering last night, the County Council appears poised to pass a bill intended to boost revitalization efforts in several blighted commercial areas.

Councilwoman Pamela G. Beidle's proposal would allow vacant buildings to be transformed into self-storage facilities - as long as they meet guidelines, including clauses that would prohibit outside doors and restrict the expansion of storage space beyond existing buildings.

Her proposal also would allow mixed commercial and residential development on properties within 15 designated revitalization areas, which are mostly in northern Anne Arundel County. Some are in the western edges of the county.

"Why not take advantage of these vacant buildings?" Beidle said after last night's meeting.

If the bill passes, ezStorage officials told the council, they intend to take over a building at Ritchie Highway and West Ordnance Road in Glen Burnie that formerly housed a Hechinger's store.

Because of the minor amendments passed last night, the council cannot vote on the proposal until its May 5 meeting. Beidle, a Linthicum Democrat, said she expects it to pass.

Councilwoman Barbara D. Samorajczyk, an Annapolis Neck-area Democrat, said "there is no question" it will pass.

A vote on the bill originally was scheduled for April 14. It was postponed after council members disagreed on how stringent to make the development requirements. Samorajczyk said at that meeting that she wanted to be careful not to allow substandard housing projects or commercial redevelopment on the lots.

Council Chairwoman Cathleen M. Vitale, a Severna Park Republican, also has expressed concern about building self-storage facilities in commercial areas that abut residential areas.

At the April 14 meeting, Beidle displayed 22 photos of vacant strip malls and big-box retailers.

"If we demand too much, we're not going to get these sites revitalized," she said that night.

Last year, the council passed part of Beidle's initial revitalization plan. It allowed several new uses on designated properties, but the council rejected the sections of her plan that would have allowed self-storage and residential building in blighted commercial areas.

Four council members opposed those sections last year - including Samorajczyk, who said she will vote for the bill this time around.

Beidle resurrected those sections of the legislation in part because two members who opposed them are no longer on the council: Daniel E. Klosterman Jr., who was defeated in the last election, and John J. Klocko III who died in a car wreck Oct. 5.

Vitale, who also opposed those sections last year, declined to say last night whether she will vote for the plan.

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