The Baltimore County Council extended zoning flexibility on Monday to the site of a former steel mill in Sparrows Point in hopes of speeding up redevelopment there.
A bill passed unanimously by the council allows the 3,100-acre former Bethlehem Steel mill property — which is zoned for heavy industrial uses — to also include light industrial and even commercial and retail uses.
Passage of the measure means the property owners, Sparrows Point Terminal, won’t have to seek lengthy rezoning applications or pursue other layers of approval as non-industrial tenants are considered.
“We all want jobs back at the Point and we need to use every tool to obtain them,” said Councilman Todd Crandell, a Dundalk Republican, who sponsored the bill.
Sparrows Point Terminal bought the shuttered steel mill property in 2014 for $110 million with plans to redevelop it as an industrial campus with port, logistics and light manufacturing uses. Company officials more recently have said they also want to have a retail section with a hotel, day care center, grocery and other stores.
Sparrows Point Terminal is a joint venture of local investment firm Redwood Capital Investments and liquidation and redevelopment firm Hilco.
The bill passed Monday includes an amendment, proposed by Crandell, requiring the company to set aside half an acre of open space for every 10,000 square feet that’s developed. If open space isn’t viable — for example, if environmental regulators won’t allow it — the company would have to pay $10,000 per 10,000 square feet of development. The money would be used for park projects in the area.
Following the vote, Sparrows Point Terminal officials issued a statement saying the bill is “a critical factor in the successful marketing of Sparrows Point to potential tenants and companies that we hope will one day call Sparrows Point home.”
Crandell said he’s seen “pain and fear” in the faces of former steelworkers and others who have lost jobs as the steel mill and other factories have closed. Sparrows Point Terminal could bring 10,000 jobs eventually if the company is successful, he said.
Also at the council meeting, members postponed voting on a contract to redesign Towson’s Patriot Plaza and a bill regarding open-space fees paid by developers in Towson.