Ruling is boost for developer

1,300-unit development possible on dump site

June 09, 2005|By Jill Rosen | Jill Rosen,SUN STAFF

Baltimore industry lost another fight yesterday in its battle to insulate itself from homeowners unlikely to appreciate its noises, smells and grit.

A state panel charged with identifying land to protect for port-related industrial use rejected a 98-acre city-owned dump site in Anne Arundel County. The move boosts a developer's chances of building as many as 1,300 homes on the parcel, which is sandwiched between some of southern Baltimore's most intensive industrial sites and growing county neighborhoods.

An alliance of South Baltimore companies hoping to keep the area industrial had convinced the Port Land Use Development Advisory Council to include it in its report. But yesterday the committee sided with Anne Arundel County executives, Curtis Bay community leaders and a developer who sees residential potential in the property.

"We support residential zoning," said Betty Dixon, Anne Arundel County's land use and environmental coordinator and the county's representative on the council.

But Craig Blinke, who leads the South Baltimore Business Alliance, an organization representing 32 companies with 1,200 employees, told the council that if the property goes residential, it could become another Canton or Locust Point, where people pay high prices for homes near the water and then complain about factory smoke or rumbling trucks.

"We have a problem with developing this property, to putting houses right up against these businesses," he said. "We're in a fight for survival here. We sit between the beautiful view and the million-dollar homes."

Developer Stephen P. McAllister wants to turn the former staging area for a Baltimore landfill into as many as 1,300 homes, townhouses and condominiums.

To do that, he'll have to have the winning bid when the city seeks proposals for the land, something it's preparing to do. And he'll have to win a zoning change from industrial to residential, which the county is to consider in August.

McAllister told the council that homes and businesses can coexist in the area.

"I feel I have buffered the industry," McAllister said. "I'm certainly no threat to their goals and their jobs. I want their people to live here."

The dispute embodies the fight that has been playing out on Baltimore's waterfront ever since neighborhoods once home to the city's factories and shipyards have become its hottest, and among the most expensive, residential enclaves.

To keep "condo creep" from pervading the entire waterfront, Baltimore enacted a law last year that prohibits housing, offices and restaurants in industrial areas. The Maritime Industrial Overlay District protects endangered deep-water access sites from Curtis Bay to Canton for 10 years.

Yet what's less concrete and less protected is property near the water, such as the 98 acres in question, that both industry and developers covet.

Baltimore planners have struggled with that issue as they try to update the city's aged zoning rules, trying to balance the needs of the city's blue-collar employment base with current business and development demands.

Rupert Denny, general manager of C. Steinweg Baltimore Inc., and the spokesman for the Private Terminal Operators, which represents a dozen private stevedores, has fought for better zoning to protect the ports.

Though the 98 acres is not waterfront, Denny had hoped the committee would realize the importance of keeping it industrial. At the very least, if it ultimately goes residential, he hopes that county zoning officials will understand how critical buffers between the homes and businesses will be.

"People simply don't realize what they're getting into when they buy these properties," Denny said, mentioning the complaints he always hears about smells and coal dust. "A fight's going to break out there in three years time.

"We obviously want to protect industry, but it's also in the interest of people buying those houses."

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