Baltimore County cancels plan for maintenance facility at Cockeysville agricultural center

Baltimore County cancels plan for maintenance facility at Ag Center

Baltimore County officials last week canceled a plan to place a maintenance facility at the Center for Maryland Agriculture and Farm Park on Shawan Road, in Cockeysville, following negative feedback from the surrounding community and opposition to the project from state and local legislators who represent the area.

The farm park is a county agricultural resource center located on 149 acres with a goal of supporting the agricultural community, promoting sustainability in agriculture and educating the public about farming.

Officials proposed to build a 7,950-square-foot maintenance facility at the site, which would have been primarily situated behind a barn, according to Chris McCollum, the center's executive director. The facility would have housed equipment for grounds maintenance workers who maintain parks in the north-central region of the county, McCollum said. The plan for the facility was presented to the public at a meeting in October, McCollum said, and plans for a maintenance facility were also part of a master plan for the property finalized in 2008.

The facility would have included a building with five bays — four for parks maintenance use and one for the use of the agricultural center. It also would have stored 15 parks maintenance trucks and several pick-up trucks used by supervisors, McCollum said.

Ellen Kobler, a spokeswoman for Baltimore County, said the facility was proposed for the agricultural center to increase operational efficiency. However, officials issued a statement last week at the direction of County Executive Kevin Kamenetz's Chief of Staff Don Mohler announcing that the facility will not be built, citing feedback from the community.

"The county will maintain the equipment at existing county public works sites," the statement said.

Prior to that, State Sen. Jim Brochin and Dels. Chris West and Sue Aumann, who represent the area in the General Assembly, sent a Jan. 13 letter to Gov. Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot stating that the planned facility would overwhelm "the intended bucolic uses of the property," turning it into "a quasi-industrial zone."

The letter also mentioned a 9,800-square-foot, $3 million county therapeutic equestrian arena planned for the agricultural center.

In December, county officials went before the state's Board of Public Works, which approves state spending requests and is composed of Hogan, Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp, requesting $2.3 million in state funding through Program Open Space for the arena. However, the board voted to delay its consideration of the request after Franchot said he was concerned about what he called a lack of community input on the plan for the arena.

In their letter to Hogan and Franchot, the legislators said they support the decision to delay consideration of funding for the arena and requested that the Board of Public Works continue to decline the county's request for $2.3 million until county officials canceled the plan to "build a regional truck maintenance depot" at the center.

When asked Monday about the status of the arena funding now that officials have canceled the maintenance facility plan, Brochin said, "I think it's certainly open for discussion now."

"I'm just grateful that common sense prevailed," Aumann said of the decision to terminate the maintenance facility. "That decision preserves the integrity of what the [agricultural center] was for."

Officials from Hogan and Franchot's offices did not immediately return requests for comment Thursday.

McCollum said the planned facility would not have been used to repair trucks, but rather

for work such as sharpening mower blades and other everyday preventive maintenance on equipment.

Baltimore County Councilman Wade Kach, who represents Cockeysville, said the planned facility would have been out of place at the agricultural center.

"It's just disruptive; that area shouldn't have a situation where it would have these trucks every day coming and going," Kach said.

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