North Point plan a 'travesty' [Letter]

Once again, Baltimore County with help from the Dundalk Renaissance Corporation is attempting to take advantage of the Dundalk area. In a very clandestine move, the county administration sold the North Point Government Center for $2.1 million even though it was appraised for $8.75 million.

It was sold under the disguise that the building was "falling down." North Point was built in the mid-1950s unlike many of the schools in the area which were built in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s and are still functioning well as schools and as various other facilities. Any problems at North Point were a result of the county's benign neglect and even with the county's neglect, it has still maintained a very good condition. The phrase, falling down, was the county's way of justifying the sell-off of a valuable piece of parkland to commercial developers. Even though there are over 160 documented vacant stores, shops and offices in the vicinity.

For over half a century, the North Point School Recreation Center and then North Point Government Center has been the focal point for athletic and performing arts programs in the area. The center's close proximity to densely-populated residential neighborhoods made it that much more essential to the communities.

The Eastfield-Stanbrook community should be given considerable credit for the center's success. Programs and participation has been prolific with nearly every type of sport possible and a strong assortment of performing arts programs including plays, musicals, concerts, Chorus of the Chesapeake, Sweet Adelines and, of course, The Sky's The Limit, a program especially designed for challenged children and adults. Primarily, people from neighborhoods surrounding the North Point Center labored to coach, supervise and hold a multitude of fundraisers to contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years to the programs. It was these people who shed the blood, sweat and tears to see the programs at North Point be among the most successful in Baltimore County. It was these people who have earned a vested interest in what should happen to the facility and not an outside organization funded by county, state and federal funds who have no present or future vested interest in the facility.

The people of the communities surrounding the center were not consulted and if anything, information on the sale of the center and property was withheld from them. DRC strongly supported the sale of North Point for commercial development and continuously interferes with the local communities' desires for development of the remaining recreational property. Despite the insistence of the DRC that they represent the needs of the entire Dundalk area, they are only a part of the area and should not have the final say.

Supposedly, the sale of the North Point Center to Vanguard was to be contingent on a Planned Unit Development agreement with Baltimore County that would provide 15 acres to commercial development and 12.7 acres to the recreational aspects of the site in agreement with the local community. It was not until March of 2014 that the Recreation Council received a scaled drawing of the site and few of the items they had requested were included on the site plan. However, despite the insistence of the Recreation Council to exclude several items as not being compatible with the neighborhood and other programs, they remained on the proposed site plan.

They include an unwanted outdoor amphitheater which the community feels would support night time vagrancy, rock concerts, skateboarding and could pose health concerns as well as noise pollution and a unwanted parking area near the Merritt Point Boulevard baseball diamond. The parking lot as designed would take much-needed square footage of the recreational property. The parking lots as designed would be entirely too close to the diamonds and would leave parked cars vulnerable to foul balls. The lots would only be beneficial to Vanguard since the construction would be funded from the recreation side and would be maintained and supervised by the county.

The plans submitted by Vanguard appear to be a complete travesty. If one looks at the amount of acreage for the shopping center, I doubt that the amount allocated to recreation is even 10 acres. The parking areas beneath the high tension wires are not part of the original 27.43 acres at North Point. Although Vanguard may be able to give away property that does not belong to them under the high tension wires for parking, I'm sure they will not be allowed to place multipurpose courts there as the plan proposes.

We need your help. On April 10, there will be a pre-PUD meeting at the new Dundalk High School auditorium at 5:30 p.m. Please make every effort to attend to keep Dundalk from being dumped on again.

Bob Staab, Dundalk

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