Is Westport about to become Westworld?
A slaughterhouse has submitted an application to the City to set up shop at 2701 Manokin Street in Westport, several blocks from a 43-acre section of waterfront property purchased by one of Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank’s real estate arms last year.
If approved, the slaughterhouse would be the latest of several in Baltimore, a throwback to the Wild West days evoked by the robot-populated amusement park in HBO’s sci-fi series, “Westworld.”
Others, according to deputy city planning director Laurie Feinberg, include Holly Poultry on Wicomico Street and the George G. Ruppersberger & Sons slaughterhouse in West Baltimore, which sometimes makes headlines when bulls escape.
A slaughterhouse, by definition, is a building or place where chickens, pigs and other animals are butchered for food. Baltimore’s Pigtown community got its name in the late 1800s as the site of butcher shops and meat packing plants that processed pigs transported from the Midwest by the B&O Railroad; the pigs were herded through city streets before they were slaughtered.
According to a filing with Baltimore’s Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals, the applicant for Manokin Street wants to use the premises “as a slaughterhouse that will include packaging of meats and poultry and retail sales.”
The Manokin Street property has been listed for sale or lease by Gold and Company. According to the company’s listing, it contains a 14,930-square-foot structure with two drive-in doors and “heavy power and gas.”
The property is currently zoned M-3 for heavy industrial use, which means a slaughterhouse is permitted. But retail space is not automatically allowed in an M-3 district, and that would need approval from the zoning board.
To complicate matters, the city’s TransForm rezoning process recommended that the land be rezoned for light industrial use, but that change doesn’t take effect until the middle of next year.
On Nov. 20, 2015, Kevin Plank’s Westport Property Investments LLC applied to the state of Maryland to begin a voluntary program to clean up contaminated soil on the 43-acre stretch of waterfront property it bought for $6 million earlier in the year. Another developer, Patrick Turner, had previously targeted the land for a $1 billion mixed-use development called Westport Waterfront. Plank has not revealed how he intends to develop it, except to indicate he is not following Turner’s plans.
The zoning board has scheduled a hearing on the Manokin Street slaughterhouse application for Jan. 31, 2017, at City Hall. Ahead of the hearing, the Westport Neighborhood Association has asked residents and other stakeholders to send notes of support or non-support.
Some residents are already expressing their views on Facebook. More than a few have commented that Westport seems to get undesirable businesses that wouldn’t be allowed in other parts of the city.
“Westport certainly needs more businesses, but a slaughterhouse?” asked George Ridrigs.
“That’s going to add a nice smell to the area. Not,” said Debbie Endley-Eanes.
“Just the thought of what it will smell like makes me nauseous,” added neighborhood association president Keisha Allan. “New businesses are mostly going in Harbor East, Canton, Locust Point and Port Covington. You know full well a slaughterhouse isn’t going in any of those communities. They’re always dumping things like this down here because they think we don’t care.”