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Demolition underway at Seagram's property in Dundalk

Demolition was underway Wednesday at the former Seagram’s plant in Dundalk, a property that has long drawn complaints from residents. (Ulysses Muñoz / Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore County officials issued a permit Wednesday allowing the owner to raze the former Seagram's plant in Dundalk, a property that has long drawn complaints from residents.

An excavator began tearing down a brick building the same day at the shuttered distillery, where a series of fires has broken out this summer.

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For years, neighbors have complained that the closed plant is an eyesore and public safety hazard. On Wednesday, people stopped by the Connelly Funeral Home parking lot across the street to watch the demolition.

"It's about time they tear it down," said Thomas Moore Sr., who went with his family to check out the scene. "This is long overdue."

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Firefighters have fought three blazes at the property in the 7100 block of Sollers Point this summer, the latest on Monday night.

On Tuesday, Arnold Jablon, director of the county's Department of Permits, Approvals and Inspections said he planned to impose a $100,000 fine and issue new code violations against the owners of the property.

Moore said cinders from previous fires at the site have ended up in his pool. He said his family has called the county a number of times to complain that the facility is not secure. Young people from the neighborhood are known to hang out in the vacant buildings.

"Before long, one of these firefighters is going to get hurt," Moore said.

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An overnight fire damaged an abandoned distillery in Dundalk that’s been the site of repeated fires and accidents.

Developer John Vontran has proposed a 185-unit townhouse community called Foundry Station at the site, and the county approved a development plan for the project last year.

Vontran and his attorney did not return requests for comment Wednesday.

The distillery's smokestack and a water tower are required to be preserved because they have been designated as county landmarks.

A notice of an asbestos abatement project was posted on a chain link fence at the site, and state environmental officials said inspectors were there Wednesday as part of abatement efforts.

The county razing permit is good for 180 days.

"It just cannot happen soon enough," County Councilman Todd Crandell said of the demolition. "The community has just borne the brunt of this property. It's been a drain on taxpayers."

Crandell, a Republican, lives in the neighborhood.

"From a personal perspective, I'm tired of standing on my porch and watching orange fireballs across the street," he said.

Del. Ric Metzgar and state Sen. Johnny Ray Salling, both Republicans who represent the area, visited the property to see the demolition work.

"I think it's a great day," Metzgar said. "This community is going to be happy to see this come down."

According to Crandell, the Fire Department has been called to the property 29 times over the past five years.

Two people have fallen to their deaths there since 2012 — 19-year-old Patrick Miskimon in 2012, and 24-year-old Tony King Jr. the following year.

Baltimore Sun journalist Ulysses Muñoz contributed to this report.

RAW VIDEO: Demolition starts at the former Seagrams plant. (WJZ)
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