The Rev. Charles Dockett appreciates Ernest Maier Inc., not only as a good corporate neighbor cutting his church’s grass and cleaning up dust with a street sweeper, but also for managing a respectable business in Bladensburg.
However, Dockett, pastor for 16 years at Kingdom Missionary Baptist Church, said “enough is enough” regarding Maier’s proposal to build a concrete batching plant alongside its current concrete manufacturing plant.
The business operates on a nearly five-acre parcel beside a predominately Black church that has fewer than 50 members and holds one Sunday morning service inside a more than 200-year-old building.
“We haven’t raised a lot of concerns about [dust accumulation] until the company wanted to expand,” Dockett said. “I don’t think that is a good idea.”
Dockett called the company’s owner, Brendan Quinn, “a good fellow” who he converses with about other topics other than the current batching plant proposal.
Quinn acknowledged dust can accumulate on the street and church property and “we mitigate it as much as we can.”
“In the 24 years that I’ve been here, this experience has been by far the worst,” he said. “I didn’t [think] of myself as doing anything but [being] a partner with the town and the local community.”
It’s now up to a Prince George’s County judge to decide whether to affirm or reverse a District Council voted this year to deny Ernest Maier’s application.
“I will take it under advisement,” Judge ShaRon Grayson Kelsey said after the more than one-hour judicial review hearing Thursday, Oct. 3 at the county’s Circuit Court in Upper Marlboro.
Disagreements between the company and some residents along the Port Towns — Bladensburg, Colmar Manor, Cottage City and Edmonston — began in December 2016 when Maier first applied for a special exception use for a concrete operation on the same property as its current business zoned heavy industrial.
After various hearings and meetings in 2017, the county’s zoning hearing examiner recommend approval of the plan. In December of that year, residents with the Port Towns Environmental Action filed an appeal.
District Council, which are County Council members that review zoning and land matters, held a hearing in April 2018 that lasted more than four hours.
One major point brought to attention by Ernest Maier attorney Daniel Lynch dealt with air quality. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, businesses classified as a “minor source” don’t have to monitor air quality based on business size, calculation of pollutants and/or hazardous pollutants and emissions released. Besides concrete batch plants, other businesses that could fall under this designation include gas stations, printing operations and sawmills.
Almost a month later, council sent the application back to the hearing examiner to review several items such as distance from plants, boundary lines and merging other properties.
In August 2018, the zoning hearing examiner again recommended the county grant special exception approval. And again, opponents filed an appeal.
District Council held a hearing in February and then decided against the plan in March.
During that time, the company amended its application which claims adding Maier Retail Inc., a commercial business already on the property, doesn’t require the company to go through a new approval process. The county disagrees.
Quinn, who attended last week’s hearing, outlined how the business pays $400,000 annually in taxes and now generates about $90 million in revenue. The company also received a visit in October 2010 from former President Barack Obama to tout the importance of small businesses.
If the court does grant in favor of Ernest Maier, the covenants in agreement with Bladensburg include installing a “Welcome to Bladensburg” sign at the municipal border along Annapolis Road, limiting hours of operation between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m. and providing an annual contribution of at least $12,500 to the town for maintenance of Upshur Street.
That still doesn’t sit well with some residents, including Denise Hamler of nearby Cottage City.
“Having another plant just doesn’t make sense,” said Hamler, who attended last week’s hearing. “Do we need another one on the same site?”