BLADENSBURG — Following an order of remand by the District Council in May, The Zone Hearing Examiner approved a concrete batching plant to be built in Bladensburg with conditions on Aug. 23 despite strong opposition from the town.
The concrete batching plant, applied for by Ernest Maier, Inc. in December 2016, was originally recommended for approval by the Zone Hearing Examiner (ZHE), in November 2017.
The District Council then remanded it in May after finding that the ZHE did not properly follow the appropriate standard of review when making their original decision and stated that the application “lacks evidence to resolve the Opposition Exceptions to the Examiner’s findings and conclusions to grant Applicant’s variances and special exceptions.”
The remand required the applicant to provide additional evidence to address the distance from surrounding properties and requested that the revised site plan contain the appropriate distances from residential and commercial zones and other industrial zones as well as better explain what sets Ernest Maier Inc.’s plant apart from other industrial plants in the area.
The company made significant changes to their site plan and they, along with the opposing group, the Port Towns Environmental Action (PTEA) committee, were allowed to submit responses. After further deliberation, the ZHE found the application for the concrete batching plant satisfactory and went forward to approve the plant.
The decision becomes final on Sept. 23 unless the community appeals the decision or the District Council decides to make a final review on the case.
The company already operates a concrete batching plant in Bladensburg where they make cinder block. In the new plant, they plan to make ready-mix concrete.
“We’ve been around for 92 years now and have experience in the one form of concrete, we actually operate plants in the mid-atlantic ready mix plants, it just fits in with the overall business strategy,” said Ernest Maier, Inc. President Brendan Quinn.
Although the plant was approved, it is subject to a list of 18 conditions, many of which have to do with the company contributing to the upkeep of the town.
They must assume all responsibility for the maintenance of 47th street, located near the property, for use by the general public, they must install a “Welcome to Bladensburg” sign and they must make an annual contribution to the town that is a quarter of one percent of the company’s personal property subject to taxation within the town with a minimum of $12,500 per annum.
“There were things we had discussed with the town years ago like a welcome sign made out of brick and stone and doing some things that were more aesthetically pleasing than what we have now,” Quinn said. “They’re going to get done whether this plant gets approved or not.”
There are also conditions that apply to the use of the plant. They will be limited to 40 additional truckloads per day in accordance with the Traffic Impact Study, they will have limited hours of operation, they must have a specific traffic plan and they must use a watering system to minimize dust.
“The plan is just to run a business that does not intrude on anyone’s life or make anything like traffic worse,” Quinn said. “That is about all we can expect to put into plan here on the property we have.”
There is concern regarding the proximity of local landmarks such as the historic St. Paul’s Baptist Church, the Bladensburg Library, Bladensburg Elementary School and the Chesapeake Bay Critical Overlay Zone, as well as environmental worries seeing as Bladensburg is in the 90 to 95th percentile in the United States for National Air Toxics Assessment cancer risk.
According to the ZHE’s approval document, Dr. Sacoby Wilson, an expert witness in environmental health science, testified to the ZHE his concerns that “the Air Quality Impact Study was prepared in accordance with Maryland law and that the proposed use would meet the legal air quality standards, however, he argued that applicable legislative bodies should adopt more stringent air quality measures.”
“The Zoning Hearing Examiner has been pretty consistent throughout this long process of approving it,” said PTEA Community Advocate Paul Howe. “I think it’s just kind of a continuation of the initial pattern. Things just kept getting approved, maybe with some different stipulations attached to it but there’s a very strong pro-development bias in the county so it’s not shocking to me that it keeps going forward with minor changes to it.”
The PTEA will meet this week to determine their next course of action to stop final approval on the plant, Howe said.
Quinn said his goal is to work with the town, not against them. He encourages people to come in and see that the plant is not such a bad thing. Locals have come in to see the existing concrete batching plant and he has given tours for them to see how it works and reduce their concerns about truck traffic. The hope is to also put in a trade school to educate kids about the concrete masonry trades within the next five years.