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Keeping tabs on the City Council's activities so you don't have to

By Edward Ericson Jr. | Posted 3/31/2010

On the agenda for March 22

Bill 10-0453 Sale of Property--3400, 3404, 3408, 3410 Hawkins Point Road.

Would authorize the city to sell commercial-zoned vacant land, assessed at about $150,000, which is "no longer needed for public use."

The Read: This two-acre wooded parcel lies next to the Curtis Bay medical-waste-to-energy plant, not far from the Enterprise Rental and Crazy Ray's pick and pull. The medical waste facility is slated to expand and build a steam-powered laundry, though not everyone is thrilled about it.

Bill 10-0455 Community Partnership Agreements.

Would require city government construction contracts to go to companies that pay union-level wages, whether they are unionized or not, and favor local workers instead of imported ones.

The Read: This bill got all the attention last week, meriting TV and Sun coverage amid a truck-horn protest outside City Hall staged by small contractors who claim the measure will put them out of business. "I was wondering if I should wait for the full organ chorus outside to subside," Councilman Bill Henry (D-4th District) said in introducing the bill. Louder blasts ensued. "So many of the problems Baltimore faces relate to the lack of good jobs," Henry continued. "The city's unemployment rate is 16 percent, but we have to realize that's an average. There are plenty of neighborhoods where the rate is substantially higher."

In order to bring the rate down, he proposes requiring contractors to hire workers locally on city-funded projects. The bill would "sunset"--that is, cease--after four years unless renewed. "This idea is new to Baltimore," Henry said, citing Washington D.C.'s experience with a similar bill. "But it is not an unproven one." Indeed. Policies like this are often called "project labor agreements" and are loved by construction unions and hated by anti-union forces, led in this case by the Associated Builders and Contractors.

Bill 10-0456 Planned Unit Development--Designation--Mt. Vernon Mill.

Would create a planned unit development plan for properties, including 2980-3100 Falls Road.

The Read: Terra Nova Ventures, a development company founded by David Tufaro, has a contract to buy the properties and wants to developed a mixed-use project with retail and townhouses, according to the bill introduced by Councilwoman Belinda Conaway (D-7th District). "It's a vacant structure," she told the council. "We can turn it into a useful building." Tufaro is a former member of the Maryland State Board of Education. He has a long track record as a developer and historic preservationist.

10-0457 Rezoning--107 Riverside Road.

Would change the zoning of a single address from residential (R-6) to industrial (M-2-1). Council Vice President Edward Reisinger (D-10th District) is the sponsor.

The Read: The property is a vacant lot in Brooklyn Park on a grass field next to I-895, across from the backyards facing West Meadow Road at Levin Road. Operating as JBL Real Estate, LLC, Jeremy Landsman picked it up cheap a few years ago; it's assessed at less than $15,000. Presumably the zoning change could increase its value. JBL has properties for sale or lease all over the city, including in Hampden, Fells Point, Lauraville, and Mount Vernon. Among the company's portfolio of properties is "Morrell Park Place," a nine-lot housing development at Herkimer Street and Letitia Avenue in that South Baltimore neighborhood.

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for April 12 at 5 p.m.

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