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Baltimore County to hold hearing on $78M for Tradepoint Atlantic

The Baltimore County Council will hold a public hearing Tuesday on a $78 million financial assistance deal for Tradepoint Atlantic.

If approved, the complex deal will help Tradepoint Atlantic pay for roads, water lines and sewer pipes at the five-square-mile former steel mill property in Sparrows Point that the company is redeveloping into an industrial and logistics hub.

Tradepoint executives initially asked for up to $150 million in an arrangement known as tax-increment financing. A portion of the property’s future property tax payments would have been used to pay off government bonds that would have financed the infrastructure work.

Instead, former County Executive Don Mohler negotiated with Tradepoint executives and settled on a plan worth up to $78 million.

The county would reimburse Tradepoint up to $44 million for the water and sewer work, with the money coming from the same fund that pays for other water and sewer projects.

And the county also would provide Tradepoint up to $34 million for road work. The county expects to recoup some of that money from the state. The state usually makes payments to the county to soften the blow of a property tax credit given to projects in state-designated Enterprise Zones, such as the Chesapeake Enterprise Zone that includes Sparrows Point.

County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr., a Democrat, has expressed optimism about the deal but has stopped short of fully endorsing it. At a meeting of the Essex-Middle River Civic Council last week, he told residents: “I’m encouraged the deal has been changed to reduce the cost to taxpayers.”

Tradepoint Atlantic executives have said they need help building out the infrastructure in order to attract tenants, including manufacturing companies, to the old steel mill site. The property operated as a mill for more than a century, mostly under Bethlehem Steel, before it was shuttered in 2012.

Tradepoint has demolished most of the old steel mill structures and buildings. Warehouses for FedEx, Under Armour and Amazon have been built.

Other tenants include Perdue Agribusiness, an auto importing business run by Pasha Automotive and a hydroponic greenhouse. A Royal Farms is under construction at a future retail area.

But some stretches of the vast property don’t have access to water and sewer lines, while roads are substandard or non-existent.

“What we’re asking for is the opportunity to put the right infrastructure in the right place at the right time,” Aaron Tomarchio, a senior vice president for Tradepoint, told members of the civic council. They voted to support the deal shortly after his presentation.

Tradepoint has been running a campaign called Revitalize Sparrows Point to drum up support for the deal from local civic groups and businesses.

In order to take effect, the deal must be approved by the County Council, which plans to hear public input during a work session at 2 p.m. on Tuesday at the Historic Courthouse, 400 Washington Ave. in Towson.

A vote is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday during a council session at the courthouse.

pwood@baltsun.com

twitter.com/pwoodreporter

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