Sea­gram’s demo to be­gin this week

The Dundalk Eagle - - FRONT PAGE - By BILL GATES bgates@ches­pub.com

All but a cou­ple of the build­ings com­pris­ing the for­mer Sea­grams dis­tillery on Sollers Point Road should be down by the end of the week — and the re­main­der will soon fol­low.

That was the word of de­vel­oper John Von­tran dur­ing an in­ter­view on Mon­day.

After the re­main­ing struc­tures on the prop­erty are re­moved, the real work be­gins: con­struc­tion of a res­i­den­tial community which could see its first homes com­pleted by next sum­mer.

“If we get fi­nal ap­proval from the county by the end of Septem­ber, we hope to start con­struc­tion in Novem­ber, De­cem­ber,” Von­tran said.

That would be the start of Foundry Sta­tion, a 185-unit town­house community.

The town­homes would vary in height and width. Some would be wide enough to in­clude a twocar garage in the back and a fourth-floor loft. Oth­ers would be wide enough for a one-car garage and be three floors high.

The ba­sic floor plan for the homes would have the garage and a rec room on the first floor; kitchen, din­ing and liv­ing rooms on the sec­ond floor, and three bed­rooms on the third floor.

For those houses with a fourth floor, it would in­clude a loft or bed­room, an at­tic and a roof deck with views of the Fran­cis Scott Key Bridge and Can­ton.

“With the fourth-floor op­tion, you can see the Natty Boh guy in Can­ton,” Von­tran said.

Von­tran, who has owned the for­mer dis­tillery prop­erty since 2008, has come un­der crit­i­cism in the past from community mem­bers and lo­cal politi­cians who felt he was tak­ing too long to do some­thing with the site.

Over the years, and de­spite con­tin­ued ef­forts to se­cure ac­cess to the 13-acre for­mer dis­tillery (Von­tran said he has kept a log of the num­ber of times they’ve re­paired holes in the fences that were cut by in­trud­ers), tres­passers have set sev­eral fires among the aban­doned build­ings, and two peo­ple have died as a re­sult of falls while ex­plor­ing the build­ings.

“It’s taken two years and nine months to get the plan ap­proved,” Von­tran said. “The process just takes a long time. There are at­tor­neys and ar­chi­tects in­volved ... there’s noth­ing I can do to speed up the time. It’s just the county process.”

Von­tran ini­tially pur­chased the prop­erty with a plan to build se­nior hous­ing on the site. The first fire set by a tres­passer, plus chang­ing mar­ket con­di­tions, caused him to seek another op­tion.

After a mar­ket study de­ter­mined an up­scale apart­ment/con­do­minium de­vel­op­ment would not be fea­si­ble, Von­tran filed the Foundry Sta­tion plan with Baltimore County in June 2014.

Von­tran said he ap­plied for the de­mo­li­tion per­mit back in June, be­fore a July 3 ar­son fire that led to his be­ing cited for a county code en­force­ment vi­o­la­tion.

The fire left the front of the dam­aged build­ing lean­ing pre­car­i­ously.

“The county or­dered it to come down, so we im­me­di­ately went out and took the whole fa­cade down,” Von­tran said. “But we had ap­plied for a de­mo­li­tion per­mit in June and put out bids for four, five dif­fer­ent con­trac­tors. We started that process be­fore the fire hap­pened.

“By Fri­day of this week [Sept. 1], we’ll have two-to­four of the build­ings down. One of the build­ings, with old boil­ers, will be a three­week process. And we can’t take down the big­ger build­ing right away, be­cause it’s at­tached to the boiler build­ing.”

The boil­ers con­tain as­bestos, so there will be an as­bestos abate­ment process from Aug. 26 through Oct. 6.

“As the build­ings are cer­ti­fied, they’ll be com­ing down,” Von­tran said.

Dur­ing the abate­ment process, the af­fected build­ings will be sealed off and no as- be­stos will es­cape into the lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment. A third­party in­dus­trial hy­gien­ist will over­see the project.

After the de­mo­li­tion of the re­main­ing dis­tillery build­ings are com­plete, Von­tran still needs two per­mits ap­proved by the county be­fore he can be­gin con­struc­tion on Foundry Sta­tion.

“We’re wait­ing for ap­proval on grad­ing and stormwa­ter man­age­ment,” Von­tran said.

A grad­ing per­mit is re­quired when work is done that will dis­turb soil, or use over 100 cu­bic yards of fill ma­te­rial. Stormwa­ter man­age­ment is the plan to prop­erly di­rect the wa­ter runoff from storms so as not to cause ero­sion, dump sed­i­ment into the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay or leave stand­ing wa­ter as breed­ing grounds for mos­qui­tos.

When those two per­mits are ap­proved, con­struc­tion of Foundry Homes can be­gin. This was con­trary to a state­ment from a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of county coun­cil­man Todd Cran­dell (R-7), who told The Ea­gle in July: “To our knowl­edge, [Von­tran] has ev­ery­thing he needs to start de­vel­op­ing the prop­erty. He’s got­ten all of his per­mits.”

“I’ve been work­ing with the coun­cil­man’s of­fice,” Von­tran said. “They just didn’t un­der­stand the process, got con­fused as to what per­mits we were talk­ing about. I’m con­fi­dent we will con­tinue to work well with the coun­cil­man’s of­fice.”

As for fears that de­struc­tion of the aban­doned build­ings and the sub­se­quent con­struc­tion work will re­lease a wave of home-de­prived rats on the neigh­bor­ing com­mu­ni­ties, Von­tran said trap­ping has in­di­cated there aren’t many rats on the prop­erty.

“There’s just noth­ing for them to eat in there,” he said.

If all goes as sched­uled, the first “stick” of eight town­homes will be fin­ished and up for sale next sum­mer.

The town­homes are ex­pected to sell in the low $200,000 range, and are for home­own­ers, Von­tran said. No renters; no Sec­tion 8 hous­ing, as en­forced by a home­own­ers as­so­ci­a­tion.

“The mar­ket is good for in­di­vid­ual homes,” he said. “The Dun­dalk area has 43 miles of wa­ter­front, is 15 min­utes from Can­ton, there’s the Spar­rows Point Coun­try Club, and new jobs will be com­ing to Spar­rows Point [with the de­vel­op­ment of the for­mer Beth­le­hem Steel prop­erty].

“I’m not con­cerned about find­ing buy­ers. I feel the homes will be priced right for the mar­ket.”

As part of the de­vel­op­ment, Von­tran will do­nate $200,000 in Community Ben­e­fit funds. Part of that money has al­ready been used to pur­chase the new sign out­side Dun­dalk Mid­dle School.

For the rest of the funds, ap­prox­i­mately $125,000, Von­tran feels the de­ci­sion on how to use them should be de­ter­mined by the com­mu­ni­ties upon which it will have the most im­pact.

(Al­though he did sug­gest a con­ces­sion stand for the Dun­dalk High sta­dium.)

And if any­one should still be won­der­ing: Frank Scarfield (pre­vi­ous owner of the dis­tillery prop­erty) is not in­volved in this project “in any way, shape or form,” Von­tran said.

A con­cept draw­ing dis­plays plans for the com­pleted Foundry Sta­tion town­homes.

A con­cept ren­der­ing of the Foundry Sta­tion de­vel­op­ment.

A con­cept ren­der­ing of the ex­te­rior of com­pleted town­homes at Foundry Sta­tion.

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