This week, Councilmembers David Marks (R-5), Cathy Bevins (D-6), and Todd Crandell (R-7) congregated at an “Issues and Eggs Breakfast” hosted by the Chesapeake Gateway Chamber of Commerce by to provide updates and outline their upcoming priorities for their respective jurisdictions.
The council members spoke to the crowd of business owners and community members frankly about the challenges Baltimore County faces while looking towards a future of economic growth and progress in Districts 5, 6, and 7.
The progress of Tradepoint Atlantic in Sparrows Point and at the Greenleigh development along Route 43 in Middle River were cited as reasons Baltimore County residents can share this optimism.
Bevins said Greenleigh has continued to be a positive force of development and job growth, with Stanley Black & Decker moving in and creating 400 jobs and the upcoming opening of Pooles Island Brewing Co., which is set to open this month.
About Tradepoint, Crandell said the County has been aggressive in using state economic development funds to help subsidize the building of multiple complexes, which include homes for the recently announced Home Depot center and a Floor & Decor distribution center.
He said there has been $1-2 billion of investment put into Tradepoint and that it is “not even 30% built out yet.”
He said, once completed, Tradepoint will have created 15-20,000 jobs.
However, he warned that these benefits come with consequences, including a need for infrastructure and road improvements to account for the area’s increased truck traffic, especially with the expansion of the Port of Baltimore pending.
The Council Council is aware that they need to strike a balance between promoting development while making sure the County is prepared for the effects of this construction, said Crandell.
Bevins then spoke about the future of the long-abandoned Middle River Depot sitting empty at Eastern Ave. and White Marsh Blvd.
“It’s been very problematic over the last few years of figuring out what to do with the property.”
She said a contract has been drafted with Blue Ocean Developers to turn the 60-acre space, which was once used to build airplanes, into a sports complex with indoor and outdoor sports.
The building is marked as a historical landmark, meaning it cannot be torn down but Bevins said developers could and would make significant improvements around and on the outside of the facility.
She stressed that the check has not yet cleared and the plans are still in negotiation.
“If all goes well, what will be across the street will be so beneficial to the entire region of Eastern Baltimore, not just the 6th district,” she said.
Another issue discussed was the County’s growing need for more schools due to aging infrastructure and student overpopulation.
Marks explained that, at least, three high schools (Landsdowne, Dulaney, and Towson) will need to be replaced, each with a price tag of approximately $110 million.
Despite the county’s strapped budget, Marks is optimistic that Governor Hogan’s proposal to put $1.9 billion of casino revenue towards school construction over the next 5 year will greatly benefit Baltimore County if passed. He said that Baltimore County could see a $40-50 million chunk of that investment that would go towards finishing up school projects.
Marks explained that Baltimore County is responsible for 2/3rds of school construction fund to the state’s 1/3rd.
“Any additional funding the state gives us really has a tremendous benefit,” he said.
“We really want to be aggressive in these next couple years in getting those schools built,” responded Bevins.
The councilmembers all agreed that one of their biggest priorities over the next few years would be creating legislation that promotes business growth and economic development and revitalization across their districts. Despite worrying numbers pertaining to the budget and other challenges ahead, the three said they will be united in working with County Executive Johnny Olszewski to find solutions.
“I feel very hopeful,” said Bevins. “For the first time in a very long time, I [and the rest of the County Council] feel like I am equal to the County Executive.”
“Things are good in Baltimore County. We’ve made the right decisions, we have some challenges but we can certainly overcome them,” said Marks.