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New panel to advise Kamenetz on Sparrows Point options

A 16-member panel of business leaders will advise Baltimore County economic development officials about the best use for the Sparrows Point peninsula in the wake of last week’s announced woes at the steel plant, which will be laying off nearly 2,000 workers.

Panel member Tom Obrecht (left), of Blue & Obrecht Realty, greets Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz after Wednesday’s announcement.

At a news conference in Towson, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said the advisory group would begin to meet early next month and compile a report by early next year.

A main focus will be how to use the area’s existing industrial zoning and deep-water port to attract new business to the peninsula, located close to the Seagirt Marine Terminal. The group will also consider the expansion of the port in its study and how that expansion would relate to new business opportunities on the county’s eastern side, which includes White Marsh, Dundalk and Middle River.

“Baltimore County has deep-water access, interstate and commercial rail network, industrial sites and the North Point Enterprise Zone to attract even more port-related business and jobs,” Kamenetz said.

County Economic Development Executive Director Dan Gundersen will chair the group. Other members include David Bavar, a Timonium-based developer; Donald C. Fry, president of the Greater Baltimore Committee and a commissioner on the Maryland Port Commission; Mark Montgomery, president of Ports America Chesapeake; and former Baltimore County Executive Ted Venetoulis, also a commissioner on the Maryland Port Commission.

Another task assigned to the group is to consider the impact of the expansion of the Port of Baltimore on existing industrial areas on the county’s east side, including North Point, Essex and Middle River.

Part of the area is in an enterprise zone, which will enable tax incentives for future development and job growth, Kamenetz said.

Completion of an expansion of the Panama Canal in 2014 will allow super-sized ships and tankers to dock at ports in Baltimore and Norfolk, Va., on the East Coast. Kamenetz said the advisory group will be asked to use the expansion as a future business indicator for the reconfigured area.

“We want to be able to market to entities who use the port,” he said. “We want to think ahead about the best uses for the Sparrows Point peninsula.

Financially struggling RG Steel, which will be represented on the advisory group, announced May 24 it was shutting down operations at Sparrows Point, laying off nearly 2,000 hourly and salaried workers.

Also Wednesday, a Chesapeake Bay Foundation attorney said the environmental group is keeping a close eye on the shutdown of the steel mill.

Bay foundation attorney Jon Mueller said the environmental group has been seeking a court order to force the mill’s owner to post a bond to ensure environmental monitoring will continue if the owner goes out of business.

RG Steel spokeswoman Bette Kovach said shutdowns under previous owners have included environmental monitoring. However, Kovach said she does not know what might happen if the Sparrows Point mill is closed for an extended period. She said the discussion is premature at this point.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.