The Chesapeake Gateway Chamber of Commerce convened for a meeting with local leaders to discuss upcoming legislation in the Baltimore County Council.
The group met at the Perry Hall public library branch last Wednesday, where councilmen from Districts 5, 6 and 7 offered their insights on pressing business issues facing their areas.
The Baltimore County Council has already completed more than a quarter of their legislative and work session so far this year. Chamber members were mainly concerned with headlining bills like the Plastic Bag Ban and recent developments at Tradepoint Atlantic in Dundalk.
However, District 5 Councilperson David Marks, a Republican, addressed the chamber first by discussing developments in Perry Hall and White Marsh. Marks informed the chamber members of the upcoming senior-restricted community at the Gerst Farm in the northeastern quadrant of the Honeygo area.
“It took a lot of time and there was a lot of back-and-forth but we got to the point where the improvement association supported that project,” Marks said. “It provides an amenity that’s needed—senior housing—25 percent of our population is senior citizen age.”
Gerst Farm is a planned unit development consisting of 233 townhouses that comes with a community center, tennis court and amphitheater. The development is marketed to residents 55 years or older within the Perry Hall community.
Along with new schools being constructed in his area, Marks also touched on some of the challenges he inherited after last year’s remapping of the county’s councilmanic districts. One of those issues is the impending development that will see the Sears storefront at White Marsh Mall be taken down and replaced with approximately 516 apartment units in a four-story building.
With majority of community being vocally against the project that could potentially bring in more than 1,500 residents to the area, Marks said the project “will almost certainly be built.”
“There are other entrepreneurs interested in developing apartments near the mall,” Marks said.
The District 5 councilman informed the chamber of a task force spearheaded by Pat Keller, chair of the Perry Hall Improvement Association, that is looking into crafting an identity for the White Marsh Town Center.
Marks closed off his district’s challenges by going over recent developments regarding Middle River’s Lafarge Quarry on Earls Road. The proposed project will repurpose the Lafarge Quarry property as an industrial park that will include roughly three million square feet of logistics space on the land. The property has remained an active mine for more than 75 years before plans for redevelopment were submitted in 2019.
“It proposes three warehouses,” Marks said. “The developer has proposed deeding a lot of open space to the county—over 200 acres—and also land that could potentially be used as a high school.”
District 6 Councilman Mike Ertel, a Democrat serving his first term on the council, says the county is at a fork in road where it is metaphorically asking itself “What do we want to be when we grow up?”
Ertel, who represents communities stretching from Towson, Overlea and into Rosedale, discussed his district’s crumbling infrastructure, local schools underperforming and mismanaged rental properties.
“There’s a lot of challenges of how we improve the quality of those inner-ring communities,” Ertel said.
Though six schools in Ertel’s councilmanic district that were in the top 20 of the state’s report card, the District 6 councilperson expressed the need for improvement for the rest of local schools. Ertel said a struggling school system can equate to unpreparedness in today’s workforce.
Ertel, who was a part of CCBC’s board of trustees, touted the community college’s facilities as “one of the best in the country” in terms of workforce training but stressed the need to figure out how increase student success locally within high schools.
“We can’t have a school system where we have a lot of kids who are not proficient,” Ertel said.
The councilperson shifted the conversation to the current trends of manufacturing in America. Ertel described today’s practices as “not your father’s or your grandfather’s manufacturing.”
Specifically, Sparrows Point industrial logistics center Tradepoint Atlantic was recently highlighted by Baltimore County officials to drive the offshore wind energy workforce through being sites for two energy firms. The firms, Ørsted Offshore and US Wind, will be employing workers at Tradepoint Atlantic’s shipyard in 2024.
Ertel pointed to the reduction of unskilled workers through manufacturing, where today’s factory jobs now require some sort of certification and knowledge in robotics.
“There’s a lot of skilled workers and they have to know how to use machines and program them,” Ertel said.
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