Baltimore County economic development officials presented a plan last night that they promised would bring jobs to the eastern area of the county.
But most of the residents who attended a public hearing on the plan not only wanted to look a gift horse in the mouth, they also wanted to look down its throat.
The speakers who testified assured county officials they weren't anti-business, but said they feared that a proposed enterprise zone would add to pollution, truck traffic and crime in eastern neighborhoods.
"If I sound like I don't trust the plan for the area, it's because I don't trust it," said Doris Kuhar. "I don't want to see the eastern area of the county used to boost the tax base of Baltimore County."
"I don't believe we need any more heavy industry in this area," said Daryl Buhrman, president of the Rosedale Community Association. "You're going to invite more pollution into the county."
The 2,370-acre zone would spread from the Baltimore Beltway at Pulaski Highway south along North Point Boulevard to Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s Sparrows Point plant.
If the state approves the plan, industries expanding within the zone or enhancing the value of properties there would be given tax credits and rewarded for hiring unemployed workers.
A number of speakers questioned provisions in the plan that would give employers incentives for hiring "disadvantaged" workers. Some said they feared workers would be brought into the community from Baltimore City rather than from the surrounding neighborhoods.
Under the plan, eligible businesses can receive property tax credits of 80 percent of the new investment for five years. They also can receive one-time credits ranging from $500 to $3,000 for each new worker hired.
Jan Ramsay, president of the North Point Peninsula Community Coordinator Council, said the group supports the enterprise zone "with reservation."
She urged county officials to make sure they enforce zoning, environmental and other laws once the program is in place.
"The county and state have always been good at coming up with plans, but the shortcoming has always been on the enforcement end," she said.
Several residents said the zone should not be limited to industries but made available to retail and commercial businesses seeking to expand.
But Robert L. Hannon, the county's economic development director, said the program is better suited to manufacturers and could be marketed better if targeted to industry.
The County Council will vote Monday on a resolution asking the state to approve the zone.
Ten counties and Baltimore have enterprise zones, but the one along North Point Boulevard would be Baltimore County's first.