Council committee moves 2 Port Covington bills, $600M bond bill pending

Posted at 11:52 PM, Sep 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-09 06:52:02-04

The Port Covington deal is moving along amidst opposition from union workers and other city residents.

Thursday, a city council committee moved two of three bills expected to pass the council Monday.

The bill the committee didn't vote on, arguably the most important, involves the more $600 million bond slated for the project's infrastructure. Many say the project is game changing for the city, others worry it's too good to be true.

"The commitment for affordable housing is still very very low,"  C.D. Witherspoon said.

Darlene Harrison agreed.

"It seems like every time they talk about building up, they reap the benefits and it's harder on us," Harrison said.

But there's two sides to every story.

Andrew Foster-Conners is with BUILD, an organization that was very publicly against the Port Covington development in the past and is now on board with the project.

"They're investing another 10 million dollars in equity funds and lines of credit to minority and women owned businesses," Foster-Conners said.

Mandates like subsidized housing, a work training center and a commitment to train and employ 30 percent of project infrastructure jobs with Baltimore residents are expected. But for some, it's not enough of a commitment.

"Everybody across the board is paying for this but only a select few of people will be able to afford to live there, that presents a major problem for working class people and poor people," Witherspoon said.

Another concern has to do with fair wages.

"Give the people in the city a chance to get the jobs, if they don't have the training, give them training, we're trying to build our Baltimore," Harrison said.

Earlier Thursday, developer Sagamore struck a $100 million dollar deal with the city and activists.

Related: $100 million Port Covington development announced

"We don't yet have a finalized deal," Baltimore City Councilman Carl Stokes said. "Let me say though that what Sagamore has put on the table along with the advocates is a good thing."

The city's Taxation, Finance and Economic Development committee passed the Development District and Special Tax District bills Thursday night.

"We moved two of the three bills, so that they will pass on Monday there's no doubt about that," Stokes said.

But everyone's mind was on the $660 million TIF to build the project's infrastructure.  Stokes cited concern before tabling it.

"Transparency, that we could spend another week allowing people to read through what is on the table," Stokes said.

Stokes also cited his concern over education funding but is confident the project will move forward as planned.

"There's no negative blow back in terms of Port Covington and the deal and the desire to the committee and I assume the full council."

Stokes said he's confident the TIF bond will pass the full council by September 17.