UPPER MARLBORO — After more than two years of hearings, appeals and community opposition, the District Council voted to deny Ernest Maier Inc.’s application for building a concrete batching plant in Bladensburg on March 25.
Fourth on the agenda for the meeting, At-Large Council Member Calvin Hawkins moved to deny the concrete batching plant and was seconded by Tom Dernoga (District 1). The members of the council then voted unanimously to reject the plant.
“This decision has been a long time coming,” said Chris Melendez, a member of the Port Towns Environmental Action (PTEA), who have led the opposition and long-time Bladensburg resident. “The community has been in active opposition to the special exception for two years. We are very pleased that the District Council has considered our challenge of the Zone Hearing Examiner’s decision.”
The application for the plant was initially approved by the Prince George’s County Zone Hearing Examiner (ZHE) in 2017 after Ernest Maier, Inc. originally applied in 2016.
However, the PTEA, residents of the town, elected officials, businesses and nonprofit leaders were active in speaking out against the plant citing adverse effects the plant will have on the town of Bladensburg.
Throughout the process, they cited concerns about pedestrian safety due to the increased traffic the plant would cause in an already high-traffic area and the effects on nearby landmarks like the historic St. Paul’s Baptist Church, the Bladensburg Library, Bladensburg Elementary School and the Chesapeake Bay Critical Overlay Zone.
They also brought up environmental concerns as Bladensburg was identified by the University of Maryland School of Public Health’s “Environmental Justice Plan 2025” as an area with a disproportionate amount of environmental burdens and there are already four concrete and asphalt plants in the area.
Although the ZHE originally approved the plant, the District Council remanded it due to issues with the distance the proposed plant would be set back from commercial and residential properties and the ZHE’s process in making the decision.
It was approved again by the ZHE on Aug. 23 with a list of conditions having to do with a limit on the amount of truckloads that can come into the plant per day, and a limit on operating hours and conditions that have to do with the upkeep of the town. The PTEA then filed an appeal of that decision, and the District Council held an oral argument hearing for the case on Feb. 11.
Attorney David Blitzer argued on behalf of the PTEA at the hearing, and PTEA Spokesperson Paul Howe said in a statement that his oral arguments presented the provisions in the Zoning Ordinance code “that are intended to prevent developers from skirting requirements to protect surrounding properties.”
During the oral argument hearing, Dan Lynch, attorney for Ernest Maier Inc, said that the concrete batching plant would not be subjected to the 300-foot setback from surrounding properties that the District Council remanded them for and that it was instead only subject to a 100-foot setback.
He also argued that the adverse environmental effects that the PTEA and the opposition spoke of would not be an issue as it would be built on the existing property. Bladensburg Mayor Takisha James also advocated for the plant to be erected during that hearing.
“We feel that our case was very strong in demonstrating that the application was not sufficient,” said Melendez, who lives within 1,000 feet of where the plant would have been built if it had passed.
“Our community has suffered from legacy pollution for many years, and we have other facilities close to us, and we did not need to have another industrial use adding to the cumulative negative impact to the community’s health and well being.”
The PTEA commended the District Council’s decision as they kept in mind the safety, health and welfare of the Port Towns Community, Howe said.
“Our community and surrounding towns already bear a disproportionate share of industrial pollutants, and further contamination from another plant would have added to the degradation of both human and environmental health.”
Melendez added that the way the community was able to come together to fight for what they believed in is a testament to the true power that the community has.
“It speaks to how important it is for the community to come together,” she said. “It is the role of the community to contest uses that are not in its best interests.”