Baltimore County Council OKs open space purchase in Essex, reviews charter changes

The Baltimore County Council on Monday approved the purchase of 160 acres of mostly undeveloped land in Essex to use as open space.

The property on Barrison Point Road in the Back River Neck part of Essex is primarily wooded, with one house on it that will be demolished, according to county officials.

The purchase price is $1 million, with the state’s Program Open Space paying $950,000 and the county government paying $50,000.

The county plans to keep the property as “passive open space,” meaning the county won’t add park amenities to the land.

Council members are required to vote on land purchases worth more than $5,000. Monday’s vote was 7-0.

Councilman Todd Crandell, a Dundalk Republican who represents the area, said he has been pushing for the county to add open space in the southeast part of the county since he was elected three years ago. He said he was pleased to support “a significant open space investment” in his district.

Council members also received a report from the county’s Charter Review Commission, which has been meeting for several months to recommend changes to how the county conducts its business. The county’s charter was created in 1956 and hasn’t been updated in about 25 years.

The commission, a volunteer group composed primarily of attorneys, found only a few areas in the charter that need changes, said chairman Ted Venetoulis, a former county executive.

“There was no sense we had to overhaul the county,” Venetoulis said.

The commission’s suggestions include: extending the life of council bills from 40 days to 65 days to allow more discussion of legislation; requiring the County Council to approve compensation and pay for appointed county administration officials; and several updates to add gender-neutral language and to remove obsolete language.

Council members will review the recommendations and vote on which changes they want to send to voters for approval in the 2018 election. Council members are not limited to the commission’s recommendations.

Councilman David Marks, for example, has suggested changing the charter to replace the Department of Public Works with a Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, which would put more emphasis on walkability, bicycling and mass transit, in addition to roads and highways.

pwood@baltsun.com

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