Letter: Campaign contributions pay off for developer

Catonsville developer Steve Whalen denounces community objections to his recent PUD, claiming people want to violate his property rights.

This project, however, is just another example where elected officials increase developers' property values and ignore community concerns.

Whalen's properties at Rolling Crossroads and West Kenwood Avenue were both up-zoned to allow commercial development, according to the county's 1st District planning officer.

The latter adjoins Spring Grove Hospital Center and, if associated with the hospital's redevelopment, will receive tax deferments to repay infrastructure costs, according to my understanding of House Bill 1161.

Community leaders requested our new district courthouse be placed at Spring Grove.

The state of Maryland, however, purchased 6 acres from Mr. Whalen for the courthouse for $2.8 million, even though the Department of Assessments and Taxation lists its value under $900,000, according to the department's website.

Now, the state has announced it's closing Spring Grove's assisted living unit.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz officially stated he's "championing redevelopment of the Spring Grove Hospital site to integrate amenities for the community," according to an article in the Baltimore Sun.

Kamenetz had received more than $23,000 from Whalen businesses, according to Maryland's campaign finance database; he legally exceeded campaign contribution limits of $4,000 per election cycle for a business using different limited liability corporations.

Councilman Tom Quirk hasn't kept his campaign promise to listen to the community regarding the Promenade.

Del. James Malone's received $6,000 from Whalen since 2005, according to the state's campaign finance database.

I'd say Whalen Properties' political donations are yielding great returns.

In fairness, Whalen Properties isn't the only developer adept at political patronage.

Another threatened site is farmland on Johnnycake Road.

Councilman Quirk received $4,000 from Elizabeth Parham, its landowner, who's petitioning to have 40 acres up-zoned, according to the campaign finance database, and another $4,000 from the developer of the adjoining property, whose 100 acres were up-zoned by the County Council as a councilmanic courtesy to Councilman Sam Moxley in 2008.

If developed, these 140 acres will mark the single-largest loss of open space, previously outside the URDL, we've seen in two decades.

What can we do?

Google the Catonsville Voices petition, sign it and encourage them to change into a Political Action Committee.

If they do not, consider reaching out to the Baltimore County Community PAC, mobilize your community association or contact me.

Let's seek out, support and elect candidates for councilperson and state delegates in Districts 12 and 44 that will defend community rights instead of lining corporate coffers.

Paul Dongarra


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