Council votes to authorize land swap at Mays Chapel

The Baltimore County Council on Tuesday, Jan. 22 voted to authorize a land swap between the county and the Board of Education at the site of and potentially for the purpose of the proposed Mays Chapel Elementary School.

But while opponents of the planned elementary school decried the decision as yet another flawed step in the school construction process, 3rd District Councilman Todd Huff insisted the decision could benefit the community which opposes the school.

"I know a lot of people are very concerned about the location proposed for Mays Chapel," Huff, whose district includes Mays Chapel, said before the vote. "It is important to point out that the council is not to decide whether it's built on that site or not. Rather, the council is voting tonight to maximize the open space that would be available if the school is built on the Mays Chapel site."

School officials have presented the new 700-seat elementary school as a solution to overcrowding at eight York Road corridor schools. But while the land swap won't proceed unless the school board re-approves the school plans on Tuesday, Feb 5, the council voted unanimously in favor of the transaction. The Mays Chapel community has vigorously opposed the school plans at every turn.

At the council's work session on Tuesday, Jan. 15, many of the same Mays Chapel residents who testified the previous night at a public hearing before the school board urged the council not to go forward with the swap. Two opponents of the Mays Chapel school also spoke during the public comment session of Tuesday's council meeting.

Mays Chapel resident Paul Lang, citing the state Board of Education's ruling to void the school board's March 2012 decision to OK the school site because the corresponding public meeting was not properly advertised, said the council's decision "is based on a false assumption."

"You're pre-supposing a decision that has not yet been made," Lang said. "It sends a terrible message."

The school system's 10.06-acre property is valued at $1.285 million, and will be given to the county for future recreational purposes. The school system is giving up the already improved parkland, which features playing fields and walking paths, in exchange for the undeveloped portion of the park at its southwest corner owned by the county.

The county land, which will be conveyed to BCPS, is a 10-acre tract valued at $1.1 million. The undeveloped land is currently under Project Open Space restrictions, which limit development. Under the swap, the county will work with the Department of Natural Resources to apply the same restrictions to the newly acquired land.

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