Rendering plant seeks to reopen in Curtis Bay

November 05, 2003|By Rona Kobell | Rona Kobell,SUN STAFF

A Curtis Bay animal rendering plant inched closer this week to securing the permits it needs to rebuild, angering residents who say they can't bear to go back to the days when putrid smells from the plant permeated the air.

The Anne Arundel County Board of Appeals' vote Monday granting Valley Proteins a grading permit is one of several steps needed to rebuild a portion of the plant that a fire destroyed last year.

Before the fire, Valley Proteins' cooker rendered animal carcasses into livestock feed and other products. Since the fire, the Virginia-based company has limited operations at the plant straddling the Anne Arundel-Baltimore City line to recycling restaurant grease, largely an odorless process.

A Waldorf-based developer, Stephen McAllister, had challenged Valley Proteins' request for the grading permit on the grounds that he is a nearby property owner and that the rebuilding would harm him. McAllister is assembling property in Brooklyn Park and Cedar Hill for a development that will include about 1,000 single-family homes and townhouses stretching from Ritchie Highway to Pennington Avenue.

About 40 Brooklyn and Curtis Bay residents attended this week's hearing to support McAllister's fight.

Valley Proteins' lawyer, Marc Cohen, argued Monday night that McAllister had no standing to challenge the permit because McAllister's property was not adjacent and because McAllister only has the property under contract.

The board voted 5-1 to dismiss McAllister's objection, and grading is expected to start next week. But Valley Proteins still needs a county building permit and an air-quality permit from Maryland Department of the Environment, and McAllister plans to fight both of those.

For years, residents endured the smells emanating from Valley Proteins and some of the other industries ringing Curtis Bay, knowing that the factories brought much-needed jobs.

But in recent years, many of the plants have closed, workers have moved away, and residents have said the area is looking and smelling better. Now Curtis Bay is in the midst of a revitalization that it hopes will turn Pennington Avenue into a Main Street-style shopping district.

"This is just not in keeping with what we're doing," Carol Eshelman, director of the nonprofit Brooklyn and Curtis Bay Coalition, said of Valley Proteins' reopening.

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