The Baltimore County Council approved selling three county-owned properties to developers on Monday, despite protests from residents who oppose the deals.
In a 7-0 vote, the council signed off on sale contracts for the Towson firehouse, the North Point Government Center in Dundalk and the Randallstown police substation on Liberty Road. The council session was brief, and members did not comment as they voted.
County Executive Kevin Kamenetz first proposed selling the sites a year ago. Since then, a committee of county officials reviewed development proposals and announced winning bids in October. Kamenetz has said money from the property sales will be used to replace aging facilities, and leftover funds will help repair school infrastructure. Turning public sites into privately held land will also generate tax revenue, he has said.
After the meeting, Council Chairman Tom Quirk said residents will benefit from putting the sites back onto tax rolls.
"From a philosophical standpoint, government's looking for ways to do things differently, given these tough economic times," said Quirk, a Catonsville Democrat. "And I think that these three contracts help us pay for other needed government services."
Some residents, particularly in Dundalk, had complained that county officials were secretive about the bid process over the past year. Quirk said there will now be "a long process" before developers can build anything on the sites.
"There's going to be much more public input and comments now," he said.
In Dundalk, Vanguard Commercial Development bid $2.1 million for the government center and wants to build a retail center. The company says it will keep the existing ball fields at the site and build a 21,000-square-foot recreational center for the community to replace the current facility, which is used by performing arts and sports groups.
Residents who opposed the sale worried about the loss of recreational space and said selling public recreation land sets a bad precedent.
On Monday, several residents asked for a delay of the vote, saying a 1981 deed for the property contains a clause that requires the state Board of Public Works to give written approval before any portion of the property is sold. But in a letter to the council, County Attorney Mike Field wrote that a council vote would not violate the deed, saying developers still must meet a variety of conditions before the sales officially close.
In Towson, a group associated with the development firm Caves Valley Partners was the winning bidder, offering $8.3 million on the site at York Road and Bosley Avenue. It wants to build a Royal Farms gas station and convenience store, plus additional retail. Residents who oppose the plan contend a Royal Farms at the location will increase traffic and crime.
Councilman David Marks, a Perry Hall Republican whose district includes Towson, said he plans to set up a "citizens committee" to address community concerns. For the proposal to move forward, he must sponsor legislation authorizing the county to begin the development process, he said.
In Randallstown, a subsidiary of Genesis HealthCare was the only company to bid on the site, offering $275,000. It owns a nursing facility next to the county property and wants to tear down the police station so it can have more space for parking. That proposal did not draw opposition from residents.
Also Monday, the council unanimously confirmed Kamenetz's appointment of Will Anderson as the county's new director of economic development and workforce development. Anderson has served as the chief technology officer for the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education since 2002 and is scheduled to start the county job later this month. He will replace Dan Gundersen, who resigned in October.
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