The City Council passed Monday a package of bills that allow the Harbor Point project to go forward, including a controversial $107 million tax increment financing, or TIF.
The TIF allows the city to float bonds to pay for infrastructure around the project including roads, a bridge and several parks on the peninsula south of Harbor East and west of Fells Point and use property tax money from the project to repay them.
During the council meeting, citizen activist Kim Trueheart, a regular, vocally opposed the bills drawing a rebuke from Council President Jack Young. Young warned Trueheart several times that she would be removed from the meeting. At one point, police led her away, but later allowed her to return.
After the vote, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said the project means “more than 17,000 jobs for hard working men and women across our city.”
“It means an opportunity to keep growing our city by more than 2,000 new residents towards our goal of making Baltimore home to 10,000 new families,” she said.
Councilman Carl Stokes, whose committee heard the bills and who voted against them, complained that the bills were allowed to move forward before the committee’s work was done.
“We’re disappointed but it was expected,” said Stokes, who presented amendments on behalf of labor interests that were rejected.
“Clearly, [there] was inconsistencies in the process,” said Councilwoman Sharon Green-Middleton who joined Stokes in opposing the bills. She said that citizens still had questions about the project and they should have been given an opportunity to ask them. “Because of the principals I believe in, I just don’t feel that this project is ready to go forward,” Green-Middleton said.
Project developer Michael Beatty said it was a challenging process and that he appreciated the mayor’s support. “I do believe that looking back on it, people will look at it as a great start to continue development in Baltimore,” he said.
Beatty said that ground breaking for the 27-story tower that is expected to be the Baltimore headquarters for Exelon, the second building on the site, will take place in the fall. It is also the first project that will fall under City Council President Jack Young’s bill which passed earlier this year requiring 51 percent of available jobs from city contracts to be filled by city residents.
Young said that the bottom line is jobs. “My first comment was jobs, jobs, jobs and that’s what it is jobs, jobs, jobs,” he said.