Buffer-zone proposal bombs in Brooklyn-Curtis Bay area Firms say: Too much. Residents say: Too little.


South Baltimore community leaders and business executives came together more than a year ago to grapple with air pollution and truck traffic created by the area's industries.

But their task force -- called the Brooklyn-Curtis Bay Industry-Community Liaison -- has been unable to work out an agreement on industrial development. Now, the city's Planning Department has found a solution that pleases neither the residents nor the industries.

Deputy Planning Director Rachel Edds said the department has recommended that the city create a 2,000-foot buffer zone around residential neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Curtis Bay.

The Brooklyn-Curtis Bay area has 14,292 residents and three-quarters of the 9,500 workers employed there hold industrial jobs, according to 1990 census figures.

Within the buffer zone, nine potentially hazardous industries would not be banned. Radioactive waste haulers, firms that manufacture and store explosives and junk storage yards would be banned in the buffer zone.

Forty-six other types of businesses would be required to get "conditional" approval from the city's zoning board before they could operate within the zone. The industries include ammonia manufacturing, fat rendering and the processing of pulp, rubber, tar, paper, paint and plastics.

The buffer zone, which would need City Council approval, is under review by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, Ms. Edds said.

But some of the task force members say the buffer zone is a bad idea.

Industry representatives said creation of the buffer zone would drive manufacturers out of the city and, in some cases, the state.

Community and environmental leaders say the buffer zone is not enough to solve the area's air pollution problems. They say the industries still could operate outside the zone, about a half-mile from some neighborhoods.

"It drives all the undesirables outside the buffer area," and into other parts of Hawkins Point, Fairfield and Curtis Bay, "which are the very areas we have been fighting to keep these types of industries out of," said Mary Rosso, president of the Maryland Waste Coalition.

The industry executives are just as convinced the buffer zone is no solution -- but for different reasons.

"The buffer would be an economic restriction on the area. It gives an unfair competitive advantage to companies outside the buffer zone," said Brian R. Martin, works manager at W. R. Grace Co.

Lou Kistner, director of community relations for SCM Chemicals and the president of the state's chemical industry council, predicted that if the zone is created, businesses will leave town and "down the road, the city's tax base will erode further as we lose high-paying jobs throughout the Baltimore area."

The city's current proposal is similar to two City Council bills that died last year. They would have required council approval of new industries proposed for all of Brooklyn and Curtis Bay.

"Our proposal is a more modest one without the economic disincentive," said Evans Paull, executive planner for the city.

While the task force was unable to agree on zoning proposals for the area, it did make headway in restricting truck traffic through residential streets, cleaning up industrial sites and planning an alarm system that could be activated only in South Baltimore in case of a hazardous chemical leak.

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