Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow
Posted by Buzz Beeler on 21st January 2017

December 1, 2015 9:53 am ET

Sparrows Point LLC plans 48-story skyscraper for the site and says government money needed

Source: Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow

Photo/Sparrows Point Terminal LLC

Is anyone starting to get the picture regarding this whole Sparrows Point Terminal (SPT) LLC agenda?

If not then look at Section 32-4-106 of the County Code, Limited Exceptions, which states the following:

a) Exception from development review and approval process… This is the section that Councilman Crandell’s bill refers to.

In my last blog, I wrote about what I—and others as well—believe is a violation of the State Constitution regarding Councilman Todd Crandell’s proposed legislation that will grant special exemptions to the development of SPT and bypass community input and government oversight.

This will allow what Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger alluded to in a letter to the Dundalk Eagle—the potential for the construction of a day care center and hotel, despite the fact that a Sun article quoted the following:

“Regulators say an array of problems have occurred over the past year on the 2,300-acre peninsula, including illegal open dumping of industrial sludge, improper handling of hazardous materials and the running of an unlicensed scrap tire operation.”

I think we can start to see how Mr. Crandell’s bill will impact this entire process.

In another published article from The Baltimore Business Journal, Mike Pedone, general counsel for SPT, was quoted:

“In the future, Pedone said there could be a relationship between Sparrows Point and the government. With a project of this size, he said, the government will need to become involved by paying for and supporting any transportation options or other infrastructure that will be a part of the development.”

“We think the government needs to participate significantly,” he said.

On that statement, if we cut to the chase, the government (meaning us, the taxpayers) will bear a significant brunt of the cost in the SPT venture.

With Crandell’s bill giving carte blanche to open the property to businesses concepts other than the intended manufacturing plant, one might find this quote from the BBJ especially concerning.

“Also at the conference was Charles Murphy, a senior vice president at InterPark, which owns the 300 E. Pratt St. parking lot. He briefly spoke about the planned 48-story skyscraper for the site, and said the plan is still to construct the building to hold a hotel, apartments, first-floor retail and possibly some condos.”

Does that sound like manufacturing to you? I believe the intent will be a one-stop shop for anyone who lives or works on that site. The revenue generated will compete with other local Dundalk businesses.

It seems to be the same concept as the Fort Howard development—everything contained on site. That is why the congressman made the comment in the Eagleconcerning traffic, where he stated that seniors don’t drive that much while alluding to there would be no need to leave the self-contained metropolis of sorts.

So, at least for me (and some others who have studied this issue), one can see clearly how Mr. Crandell’s bill will allow the SPT to move forward, dragging the taxpayers along kicking and screaming.

However, there is another issue about the cleanup and who will force SPT to make good on the promises that previous owners of the property ignored or, as they say, kicked the can down the road to the next owner.

I believe that is what Mr. Pierce was referencing when he made the following observation:

The development activities or requirements that would be avoided by this “A” exemption include: concept plans, concept plan conference, referral to the Planning Board for conflicts with the Master Plan, Community Input Meeting, Hearing Officer’s hearing with possible appeal, and preparing and recording a plat. (This is obviously what the Sun referred to as “cumbersome processes”.)

Part of that cumbersome process would be the cleanup factor.

An article published by the Baltimore Sun stated:

“Alison Prost, Maryland executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said her group would keep an eye on the cleanup process. The foundation was involved in litigation over cleaning up the site, but the case was resolved earlier this year with an understanding that the off-site contamination issues in the water would be addressed.

In a statement, Prost said the state has promised that Redwood Capital will clean up the property, even if the cost tops the $48 million that’s being set aside.”

I attended several meetings involving this issue, and I thought it was rather strange that both the MDE (Maryland Department of the Environment) and the SPT reached the $48 million amount for the cleanup.

When I inquired about the issue, I received the following email from Mr. Jay Apperson, a spokesperson for MDE. The e-mail reads as follows:

“The Maryland Department of the Environment entered into a Consent Order that lays out the process for environmental remediation and redevelopment of the Sparrows Point site for a future use. It is the County’s role to establish land use and zoning requirements for the site. The Department of the Environment will continue to oversee the redevelopment work to protect public health and the environment. If the intended land use for any portion of the site is not for industrial use, the Department of the Environment and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would require an appropriate cleanup standard and any other appropriate actions for those portions of the property. The proposed legislation is completely within the County’s purview.”

I want to know exactly what Mr. Apperson means in the last sentence when he says “within the County’s purview.”

That purview eliminates any prying eyes under the “A” exception. Is Mr. Apperson suggesting that includes the MDE? Remember that an “A” exception eliminates anycounty oversight.

I go back to the Sun quote of eliminating the “cumbersome process,” as related to Mr. Crandell’s bill.

After a conversation with Mr. Pierce, he wondered—without a concrete development plan, who will force SPT to follow the golden rule of “clean up thy mess.”

If anyone remembers the added work on Merritt Blvd. recently, this might strike a nerve:

Mr. Tomarchio identified the following as some of the known transportation priorities from their perspective:

Rehabilitate connecting bridges and roadway network to site (Immediate)

Four bridges currently in need of repair/replacement (and remember who picks up the tab on this one.)

My guess is that this is all part of that “cumbersome process.”

Don’t touch that dial. I’ll have more after the council work session on this matter, where Mr. Pierce will square off with the crafters of this boondoggle.

Stay tuned…

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