Council weighs border rezone

Some say it could revive area

others doubt plan's safety


Some look at the vacant, environmentally contaminated area and say homes should not be built there, so close to some of the most heavily used industrial land in the Baltimore region.

But many others in northern Anne Arundel County and their Baltimore neighbors in Curtis Bay have a different take on the proposed comprehensive rezoning of Brooklyn Park.

This week before the Anne Arundel County Council, dozens of residents on both sides of the Baltimore-Anne Arundel line weighed in on county plans to rezone historically industrial land for residential use and allow a Charles County developer to build at least 1,200 homes there.

Consensus appears to be building. Last week, the county's Planning Advisory Board concurred with County Executive Janet S. Owens' administration by approving the rezoning of land in Brooklyn Park.

Baltimore Comptroller Joan M. Pratt has voiced her support for the rezoning of the city-owned industrial land within the county, a 98-acre parcel that could be incorporated into the residential development proposed by Stephen P. McAllister.

"There is broad-based support for this," said Pamela G. Beidle, a Democrat who represents Brooklyn Park. Beidle supports McAllister's plans to build a mixture of townhomes and condominiums on 170 acres, which mostly consist of vacant industrial parcels near the county-city line.

What's at stake is the economic rebirth of longtime blue-collar neighborhoods, county and city residents testified Tuesday before the council. Many see McAllister's plans as an opportunity to reinvigorate the area with new residents and retail businesses, and to clear up environmentally tainted land.

"We are fast making this the best locale to find attractive and affordable homes," said Bonnie Riley, a Baltimore resident. "Don't stomp out our promising future."

Linda Bardo, president of the Curtis Bay Community Improvement Association Inc., said, "Times are changing ... and Brooklyn Park and Curtis Bay are definitely on the upswing."

But some longtime residents, along with industrial workers and executives, either oppose the development outright or favor a reduced residential development that would provide more than the minimum 1,000-foot buffer that McAllister has proposed between the homes and Curtis Bay businesses near the Patapsco River.

Some businesses are worried that the new residential presence will drive them out. Brooklyn Park residents who oppose the rezoning are worried about new homeowners being exposed to land that's environmentally tainted, and pointed to elevated cancer rates in the Curtis Bay area. Portions of the proposed development rest on an eroded old landfill and a federal Superfund site.

"It would be better if no one else comes in," said Anna R. Bohuslav of Pasadena.

As community leaders spoke in favor Tuesday of rezoning the 100-plus acres of industrial land that McAllister owns, Beidle mentioned a recent letter from Pratt, who wrote that she supported rezoning a 98-acre city-owned parcel in Brooklyn Park.

At a County Council meeting two weeks earlier, a city real estate officer had asked the council to consider delaying a vote on the zoning package so Baltimore officials could decide when and how to sell the parcel. McAllister is among at least three parties interested in purchasing the 98 acres. The county wants to rezone 24 of those acres for residential use, and McAllister has said he would build 200 homes on that land.

The County Council must approve the rezoning for Brooklyn Park before Nov. 18.

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