The Essex-Middle River Civic Association gave a thumbs-up to Tradepoint Atlantic’s new revitalization plan for the Sparrows Point property once occupied by Bethlehem Steel during its meeting last week.

Aaron Tomarchio, senior vice-president of Tradepoint Atlantic, presented the plan to an audience that included new Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski Jr. and members of the civic association.

After Tomarchio finished his presentation and left, along with the county executive, the Essex-Middle River Civic Association members present at the meeting voted by voice vote to endorse the new plan.

Called “The Sparrows Point Infrastructure and Revitalization Agreement,” the proposal replaces the proposed $150 million TIF (tax increment financing) package Tradepoint Atlantic had previously requested from Baltimore County.

“That’s not on the table anymore,” Tomarchio said.

The key, Tomarchio said, was to fix the infrastructure at the 3,200-acre Sparrows Point facility as soon as possible.

“We’re dealing with a decades-old infrastructure, that is sometimes in the wrong place,” Tomarchio said. “Plus all the challenges that go into re-developing a brownfield site. This is an area of five square miles; we’re re-developing a town, to turn it into an economic center for the county.”

By infrastructure, Tomarchio is referring to public roads, water and sewer lines.

“Making sure the right infrastructure is in place; that’s what this plan is all about,” Tomarchio said.”The economy is doing very well, and there are a lot of companies looking to locate facilities in and around the mid-Atlantic area.

“We want to make sure we bring that 3,200 acres online now, not two-to-three years from now when the economy may be different.”

Under the new proposed agreement, Baltimore County would immediately begin to benefit from the new property tax revenue generated by the re-development.

Tradepoint Atlantic would forward-fund $34 million to improve the roads, and then seek reimbursement through the earned Enterprise Zone Tax Credit payments the state would make to Baltimore County.

Baltimore County would provide $44 million to extend and upgrade the water and sewer system that serves Sparrows Point, with the money coming from the Metropolitan District Fund, a program designed to fund public water and sewer projects.

According to the plan, the money from that fund will eventually be reimbursed by connection fees and future water and sewer bills paid by Tradepoint Atlantic and its tenants.

Ultimately, the plan states this will result in five public roads (with storm drains) covering 4.5 miles; four miles of sanitary sewer mains and over six miles of public water mains.

While the TIF called for the use of property taxes generated from the area to help fund the infrastructure improvements, the new plan does not. All property taxes owed by Tradepoint Atlantic and its tenants will go straight to Baltimore County.

Tradepoint Atlantic projects the eventual benefit to Baltimore County will include 11,000 permanent jobs (8,700 jobs during all the construction work), $1.1 billion in associated worker income, $3 billion in annual economic impact and $230 million in new tax revenue.

Baltimore County was also able to secure $20 million in federal government funding to support modernizing the rail and port infrastructure at Sparrows Point.

In addition, Tradepoint Atlantic will donate land to Baltimore County to build a new fire station and police sub-station in Sparrows Point.

Members of the Essex-Middle River Civic Association expressed concerns about the environmental conditions at Sparrows Point.

“We are using 100 percent private funding for the environmental cleanup,” Tomarchio said. “Tradepoint has already said to have invested over $1 billion in private funding toward cleaning up the site.

“We’re dealing with 125 years of environmental issues,” Tomarchio said. “We’ve reached a major milestone: the cleanup of the Tin Mill Canal should be finished in early 2019.

“There is still a lot of work going on, on the environmental front.”

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