Bel Air prepares for land swap next to Shamrock memorial tree grove

The Town of Bel Air is proceeding with a proposal to swap a small parcel of land along the memorial tree grove area of Shamrock Park with a larger parcel belonging to an adjoining property owner, who wants to build a house on a vacant lot that has access issues.

Town officials have negotiated the swap of 900 square feet in the southwest corner of the memorial grove, in the 300 block of Lee Way, for 4,200 square feet owned by Matthew Felton that is north of the memorial grove.

A required resolution to declare the town's parcel surplus is expected to be introduced at the town meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 19. The meeting, which begins at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall, is being held on Tuesday because Monday is the Presidents Day holiday and town offices are closed. The town won't hold a public hearing on the resolution until March 4.

The land swap was discussed briefly during the town commissioners' work session last week.

Planning Director Kevin Small said at the work session a dozen or so neighboring property owners, including the New Life Charismatic Christian Community, are to be notified by mail about the transaction. The parcel the town is swapping has been posted with a zoning notice.

New Life's property is next to the parcel the town is giving up, which in turn would be used by Felton for a driveway running from Lee Way to his lot where he has told town officials he wants to build a home for a relative.

Small said Felton will be responsible for providing clear title and for paying for the survey of the two parcels and all settlement costs.

Felton would also be required to remove a chain link fence that runs along part of his property and the town's property and would be responsible for cleaning up the property he is giving to the town, which has dense underbrush and several trees.

The two parcels are not being appraised; however, there is no requirement for an appraisal, Town Commissioner David Carey said Thursday, noting that the property the town is receiving is considerably larger than what is being given up.

A decade ago, town officials proposed selling the same piece of land to Felton for $10,000. Residents objected, however, and the deal was taken off the table, according to news accounts at the time. Opponents were concerned the town was giving up open space it should keep.

The lot Felton wants to build on is separated by a stream from the lot where his home is. The stream comes out of a culvert and into a storm pond at the north end of the memorial grove, which is east of Lee Way and across that street from the main part of Shamrock Park.

According to a property survey the town will introduce with the surplus property resolution, Felton's undeveloped lot, which is heavily wooded and has flood plain restrictions, can be accessed through a panhandle right-of-way he owns from Shamrock Road. It is a considerable distance from Shamrock Road to the lot, however, and the stream would have to be crossed, an expensive proposition, provided he could even get approval for such a crossing. The distance between the lot and Lee Way, using the town's property, is less than 25 feet.

The memorial grove contains a few trees that have been sponsored and planted by people in memory of friends of family. It also has a small memorial to the late Patrick Walker, who was stabbed to death in a downtown road rage incident in 2006. Neither the existing grove nor the Walker Memorial would appear to be directly impacted by the land swap.

Small noted at an earlier work session that the land the town is getting would allow it to protect and expand the memorial grove.

Parking garage contracts

The Board of Town Commissioners is also expected to approve at Tuesday's town meeting a $763,000 contract to cover a variety of planned structural repairs to the downtown parking garage.

Public Works Director Randy Robertson said there are no serious problems with the parking garage and all the work covered in the contract involves "items to keep the garage in good shape." Town officials have discussed the long-range repairs and upgrades to the garage previously.

The garage is owned jointly by the town and county governments, with Bel Air responsible for a third of the costs of repairs and maintenance and the county responsible for two-thirds. The town's share of the repair contract will be $254,000.

Also on the agenda for the next town meeting is approval of a contract for engineering consulting and inspection services on the latest repair project. This contract is going to Desman Associates in an amount not to exceed $20,000, Robertson said. Desman is already on board and has been advising the town about work needed on the garage.

Townhouse groups

An amendment to the town's Development Regulations will be introduced in ordinance form at the next town meeting.

According to Small, the Bel Air Planning Commission has recommended the regulations be changed to limit townhouse groups or blocks to six units.

The proposed change would permit a group of up to eight units subject to planning commission approval, based on such factors as parking availability and intensity of land use, Small said.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad