In a bid to bring well-paying jobs to eastern Baltimore County, the County Council could take the first step tonight toward transforming a depleted White Marsh gravel quarry into a business park.
Part of the 240 acres owned by Redland Genstar Inc. could become a "mini-Hunt Valley" -- a mix of office buildings, light industry, warehouses and stores, said Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, who introduced a resolution the council will vote on tonight.
"What I would like to see is an employment base on the Eastside," said Gardina, a Democrat who represents the area.
His resolution asks county planners to meet with economic development officials and come up with potential zoning changes and design guidelines for development of the Genstar property.
The property is part of what was once a sprawling sand and gravel mine -- some 2,000 acres, including what is now the site of White Marsh Mall and the surrounding office parks and superstores.
Genstar ceased mining in White Marsh in 1993 -- six decades after the Harry T. Campbell Sons' Corp. began working there.
In the early 1960s, the Campbell company became part of the Flintkote Co., which later became Genstar. Nottingham Properties Inc., which grew out of the Campbell company, became the primary developer of White Marsh.
Genstar closed its concrete plant in White Marsh last year, and will close its asphalt operation there in about a month, said Jack Gease, the company's director of real estate.
As its quarries have become exhausted, Genstar has become more involved in the land development business. Two restaurants are being built near the company's quarry in Cockeysville.
Last year, as construction was completed on an interchange between Philadelphia Road and White Marsh Boulevard, Genstar asked that its property in White Marsh be rezoned to permit retail development. But the County Council limited the zoning change to a 22-acre tract that is to be the site of a CarMax outlet -- a used-car superstore.
The rezoning issue prompted Gardina to consider whether the property should be declared an "overlay district," with its own zoning regulations and development guidelines.
Gardina said such legislation is needed to prevent haphazard development on the quarry property. He said the development should not be mostly commercial because retail jobs do not pay as well as office or light industrial jobs.
Gease said the rezoning request was filed because land that can be developed commercially commands a higher price than land zoned for industry. Still, he said that he shares the vision for a mixed-use development on the property and that he is receptive to county officials shaping the development of the land.
"As strongly as I feel about private property rights, I also realize people have the right to make decisions about development in their community," he said. "I think we'll reach a middle ground."
Marie Simoes, former president of a community association in the nearby Nottingham neighborhood, said Gease already has agreed that the Genstar development would require landscaping and design schemes similar to those near White Marsh Mall.
Gease said only about half of the 240 acres can be developed. The rest, he said, is flood plains or wetlands.
The company will spend millions of dollars to demolish old buildings and reclaim land that has been stripped of its capacity to bear the weight that comes with development, he said.
"If you stood on some of it right now you'd sink up to your ears," Gease said. "It's basically mush."
Gardina's resolution would direct the county planning department to form a committee to determine the best use for the property, then recommend zoning changes and design guidelines.
Robert L. Hannon, the county's economic development director, said the land has great potential for use by companies that serve regional or national markets.
The planning department's report should be done in about six months, Gardina said. The County Council could vote on zoning changes and design guidelines by the end of the year.
Pub Date: 4/21/97