A potential win for communities fending off developer pressure in Prince George's, where it frequently reigns supreme. Activists in Bladensburg and neighboring communities in the Port Towns along the Anacostia have been fighting off a dust-generating "concrete batching plant" on an industrial site ill-placed in the middle of a mixed residential area. This week the Prince George's council, sitting as a zoning board (bad idea in itself) has temporarily yielded to the full house that greets every iteration of this decision. Persistence, at the cost of many hours of sitting through packed agendas, continues to pay off for the Port Towns Environmental Action group and for the health of the community.
Prince George's County Administration Building
News Release from Port Towns Environmental Action: District Council Defers Decision on PTEA Appeal in Opposition to Ernest Maier Proposed Concrete Batching Plant Special Exception Application SE-4792
Upper Marlboro, MD, -- Monday (Feb. 11) the Prince George’s County Council sitting as the District Council chose to defer its decision on the appeal filed by Port Towns Environmental Action (PTEA) of the Ernest Maier, Inc. (EMCO) application for a Special Exception (SE-4792) to build a concrete batching plant on the site of its currently operating concrete block plant in downtown Bladensburg.
The deferral followed oral arguments presented by PTEA’s attorney, David C. Blitzer. PTEA filed the appeal on September 21, 2018 in response to the Zoning Hearing Examiner’s (Joyce Nichols) decision to approve the application. The Council will be making a final decision on or before April 1, 2019.
PTEA filed its appeal taking exception to the ZHE’s current decision based on evidence allowed into the record at the remand hearing held June 19, 2018. At the hearing, EMCO’s attorney, Daniel Lynch submitted a new application, statement of justification and site plan that significantly changed the special exception boundaries. This in effect changed the application for two variances and a special exception to just a special exception with no variances. EMCO sought to avoid the remand issues by withdrawing its application and submitting a new application, which PTEA contends the code of ordinances does not allow.
Paul Howe, spokesperson for PTEA noted that, “The oral arguments presented by David Blitzer clearly presented the provisions in the code that are intended to prevent developers from skirting requirements to protect surrounding properties, which is precisely what Ernest Maier’s new application materials are designed to do.”
Zoning Hearing Examiner Joyce Nichols issued her decision to approve the Special Exception SE-4792 application on August 23, 2018 following the District Council’s order on May 7, 2018 to remand the case back to the ZHE for further evidentiary hearings. The remand order followed the District Council hearing of PTEA’s first appeal of the ZHE’s initial approval of the application in November 2017.
PTEA’s second appeal comes after almost two years of community opposition to the proposed plant. A large number of elected officials, residents, business and nonprofit leaders have spoken out against the plant in community forums, online, and in 24 hours of testimony before the Prince George’s Zoning Hearing Examiner. The PTEA and the opposition has laid out clear and compelling rationale that demonstrates the multitude of problems with the application and approval of the plant.
In addition, a report by the University Of Maryland School Of Public Health, “Environmental Justice Plan 2025” identified Bladensburg as an area that bears an already disproportionate amount of environmental burdens. The area already has four concrete/asphalt plants within close proximity.
“We hope the District Council will hold the protection of the health, safety, and welfare of the Port Towns and surrounding communities as their highest priority during their review of the case” said Howe. “Our community already bears a disproportionate share of industrial pollutants and further contamination from another plant located just blocks from an area schools will add to the degradation of both human and environmental health.”
Port Towns Environmental Action (PTEA) is a coalition fostering environmental and social justice in the Port Towns communities of Prince George’s County while promoting local sustainable practices that create equitable, healthy, and safe communities. www.JoinPTEA.org Facebook: @JoinPTEA, JoinPTEA@gmail.com, PTEA, P.O. Box 713, Bladensburg, MD 20710.