Georgetown's Planning Commission voted Tuesday night not to approve rezoning plans for the area around the former ArecelorMittal steel millsite, after ArcelorMittal threatened to sue the city and county.
Representatives for ArcelorMittal made the threat in a letter sent to the Georgetown Planning Commission ahead of its meeting Tuesday, saying a vote to rezone the area would be a "death sentence" for a plan in the works to sell the mill to a new owner, the Liberty House Group.
ArcelorMittal said if the planning commission passed the rezoning ordinance, it would cause a deal-in-principle with Liberty House to fall through, because the new rules proposed as part of the ordinance would be "incompatible" with reopening the mill.
If that happened, ArcelorMittal promised to pursue legal action against Georgetown for damages over money lost caused by the deal collapsing.
ArcelorMittal closed the mill in 2015. Since then, Georgetown officials have been looking into ways to reinvigorate the area, largely planning a future without the steel industry in Georgetown.
The planning commission was considering an ordinance Tuesday night to rezone the waterfront area near the mill for retail, commercial and light industrial use instead of strictly industrial, making it more friendly to tourism.
Georgetown City Administrator Paul Gardner told WPDE the city wanted to rezone the site because of instability in the steel industry, saying rezoning would give the city options if the steel mill ever closed for good.
Gardner said the ordinance still would've allowed for the site to operate as a steel mill even if rules changed for surrounding areas.
"It's in the ordinance that they would be allowed to operate for five years, then make their case that that wasn't enough time for them to recoup their investment and that they would enter an administrative process to ask for an extension," Gardner said.
However, ArcelorMittal officials refuted this in their letter to the planning commission.
"While there have been public statements recently that the rezoning will 'grandfather' the use of the site as a steel mill, we want to be clear that this is not realistic," said Keith Nagel, Director of Environmental Affairs and Real Estate for ArcelorMittal. "The rezoning ordinance only guarantees that the site could be used as a steel mill for another five years. It also says that the structure of the steel mill cannot be substantially improved during those five years."
The ultimate decision on whether or not to rezone the area will be made by the city council as part of the May agenda.