Bevins Bill Offers Alternative For Middle River Depot

Councilwoman Cathy Bevins denies that a bill passed Monday night affects the Middle River Depot project and could thwart a referendum attempt.

A bill passed by the Baltimore County Council Monday appears to provide an alternative development option for the owners of a Middle River industrial property that is the focus of a zoning referendum effort.

The council approved the bill by a vote of 6-0 with Councilman Ken Oliver abstaining.

Oliver said he abstained from a vote because a referendum involving the property has not yet been decided by voters.

Bevins last week said the bill was about finding creative uses for large manufacturing buildings on the east side of the county that can't be torn down because of their historical designations.

"Not only does it create a blight for the community but it's a reminder of the jobs lost," Bevins said of the warehouses, adding that her bill "would be a way of redeveloping, to bring jobs back and preserve these sites."

Following the meeting, she denied that the bill affected the Middle River Depot property.

"We changed that zoning, remember?" Bevins said, speaking of changes enacted when the council concluded its quadrennial comprehensive rezoning of the county.

A New York-based development group purchased the property in 2006 for $37.5 million—a record at the time for a federal auction. The plan is to redevelop the property as part of the proposed Middle River Station project and include a mix of retail and residential space.

The 55-acre property is adjacent to the Martin State Airport along Route 43 and Eastern Boulevard in Middle River.

The zoning passed in August by Bevins and the council would allow for such a development.

But the proposal and the zoning are opposed by other developers, including David Cordish, who believes the proposed Middle River Station project will lure away Walmart from his Carroll Island Shopping Center property.

Bevins declined to elaborate on what properties the bill would affect.

"I'm not going to tell you," Bevins told a reporter. "You'll have to do your own homework just like I did."

Bevins' bill would allow the construction of residential and retail property on land zoned for heavy manufacturing provided that the property is at least 40 acres in size and includes an existing building that is listed on the Maryland Historical Trust inventory of historic proprieties.

Council notes prepared by the Office of the County Auditor do not list the number of properties affected nor the location of those properties.

Officials in the county Department of Planning said they only know of one property in the county that meets the qualifications in the bill—the Middle River Depot.

The bill, which goes into effect Dec. 31 if signed by County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, would only apply to the depot if opponents of the property's recent rezoning successfully overturn it on referendum in 2014.

Stuart Kaplow, an attorney for the effort spearheaded by developers David Cordish and David S. Brown Enterprises, was not immediately available for comment.

Opponents of the zoning on the Middle River property and the Solo Cup property in Owings Mills for the effort that resulted in submitting more than 137,000 voters signatures. The county Board of Elections continues to verify those signatures and has not determined if either bill will be placed on the 2014 ballot.

Blue Alpha December 19, 2012 at 08:56 PM
John - the developers of the Depot site are wealthier than all of the ones who supported the Referendum - do your research - in this case the wealthy developers are winning with Cathy.
John Polek December 19, 2012 at 09:17 PM
Blue...My point is that the property owners followed the CZMP process from start to finish. The community had no issue with the ultimate zoning. While the owners did not get the exact zoning they requested, they accepted what they were given. That's how the process works. The unhappy developers never voiced ANY opposition at the public hearing. They screwed up, didn't get their way and are seeking a way around the process.
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