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Baltimore County could fast track Seagrams development

The Baltimore County Council will decide next week on whether to fast-track a developer’s plans for nearly 200 townhomes on the site of a former whiskey distillery in Dundalk.

The council is scheduled to vote Monday on a resolution continuing the county’s planned unit development process, which could give Sollers Investors LLC the additional density needed for its 194-home Brewery Station proposal.

Councilman John Olszewski Sr., who represents the area, introduced the resolution and said redevelopment of the former Seagram’s distillery site is needed.

“There will finally be something there that will produce property taxes,” Olszewski said.

In recent years the property, located at 7101 Sollers Point Road, has become an eyesore that attracts vandals and firebugs. Some residents have even died exploring the property, which was last used as a distillery in the 1990s.

Although the planned unit development process still requires public meetings and county oversight, it is quicker than the standard quadrennial rezoning process. To qualify, though, the developer must prove the project provides a community benefit.

In this case, the developer has pledged $515 per home that will go toward the construction of a multipurpose artificial turf playing field on county-owned property in the area’s recreation district.

Olszewski said he introduced the planned unit development for the land, which is already zoned for residential use with less density, at the developer’s behest because he wants to see the property generating tax revenue again.

“It’s something the developer told us that they needed to do to make it work,” he said.

Sollers Investors’ principals include politically connected businessman John Vontran, a long-time friend of Olszewski. According to state property records, Vontran’s former company, Brewery Station Inc., purchased the property for $2.1 million in 2008.

Vontran, along with Ryan Homes, also redeveloped the nearby site of the former York Park apartment complex after the county spent $21 million to acquire and demolish it. The developer bought the property for $1.6 million and replaced the World War II era HUD-subsidized apartments, which were generating more than 3,000 police calls a year, with 66 single-family homes, each with four bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms and an attached garage.

Vontran did not return calls seeking comment for this story.

Amy Menzer, executive director of the Dundalk Heritage Corp., said newly constructed homes are in demand in the area. Her group is currently leading a revitalization effort for the community, which has faced tough times during the decades-long decline of the now-closed Sparrows Point steel mill.

“There’s new construction happening. Whether it’s waterfront or not, there seems to be demand for living in the area,” Menzer said.

About Adam Bednar

Adam Bednar covers real estate and development for The Daily Record.