Baltimore officials advanced a developer's plan yesterday to build more than 1,000 homes on the city's southern border - along with a more contentious proposal to provide access to those homes through a former landfill.
On an 9-3 vote with one abstention, the City Council permitted the sale of 159 acres of city-owned property for the project, a procedural move that has stoked the debate over the best use of once-industrial property near the waterfront.
Charles County developer Stephen P. McAllister has proposed building 1,300 homes on a site in Anne Arundel County and hopes to build an access road across the former Pennington Avenue landfill near Curtis Bay.
"The population has been declining for years and years up there," said McAllister, a co-owner of Waldorf-based Cherrywood Development. "I'm building work force housing ... a place to put people rather than whacking more farms out in suburbia."
Opponents have questioned the use of the site for residential development, arguing that directing traffic through the landfill onto Pennington Avenue will pit residents against heavier industrial traffic that has long been established in the area.
Critics also said they have not received answers to basic questions from City Hall about how the land deal will be structured.
"Why does it seem like the city is trying to ramrod this deal through without anybody asking questions?" said Eamonn McGeady, president of the South Baltimore Business Alliance, a group made up of industrial businesses in the area. "It doesn't pass the sniff test."
Debate over the project is similar to what has taken place in other former industrial waterfront areas of the city, such as Locust Point, where demand for housing has put residents and heavy industry at odds over noise, traffic and air quality.
Land officials in Comptroller Joan M. Pratt's office did not return a call seeking comment on the deal, but McAllister said he expects to pay about $2 million for the property, which has been appraised at about $8 million. The difference, he said, will be spent on cleaning the site.
McAllister, a former Greenpeace activist, said he will spend nearly $6 million to recap the landfill, remove trees and clean up a separate dump nearby. In addition to the access road, the landfill would be fenced off and become a bird sanctuary, he said.
The city has also agreed to sell McAllister an adjacent 98-acre property it owns in Anne Arundel County. That property would be the site for about 200 additional housing units.
Details of the land sale must still be approved by the Board of Estimates.
Linda Bardo, president of the Community of Curtis Bay Association, said most of her neighbors support the development. Bardo said she hopes the project will bring new businesses to the area.
"Maybe after 30-plus years this stinky, former landfill is going to be taken care of and at least made into a bird sanctuary," Bardo said. "We're excited that he is going to clean that up and make something good for the area."