Community must unite against North Point development [Letter]

Some people don't care what happens if it's not happening to them. I am sure to some people, the Vanguard Commercial Development plan for the North Point Government Center in Dundalk may seem like a reasonable proposal ("Winning bids for Balto. Co. properties announced," Oct. 25). But then again, it's not in their backyard.

In the mid-1970s, Baltimore County purchased a 16.9 acre parcel of property along Willow Spring Road for a potential community park in St. Helena. As area superintendent of Recreation and Parks, I began to work with Maurice Hedges, the then-president of the St. Helena Community Association, to form a St. Helena Park Development Committee for the purpose of formulating a plan for the park that would accommodate most of the desires of the community residents. The park committee was most successful, and after many hours of parkland tours and meetings, the committee came up with an excellent plan that was ultimately implemented.

Prior to park development, I received a telephone call from a someone I knew from Dundalk High School. The individual, although highly successful, was rather notorious by many of the St. Helena people because of the trucking interest he had in their community. He was also associated with a huge automobile undercoating business at the marine terminal. He asked me what he had to do to buy the property at St. Helena Park, which he would like to use as a staging area for automobiles to be undercoated. The parkland was in close proximity to the undercoating business. I told him the parkland did not belong to me, it belonged to the people of Baltimore County and specifically to the St. Helena community. It was not for sale! After some comments that he could make it worthwhile to everybody, I reiterated that it was not for sale and I never heard from him again.

I sometimes wonder if it had been a different county administration, what may have happened? I think there is a good chance that the people of St. Helena would have had an automobile staging area all the way up to Willow Spring Road. Then again, there could have been a compromise to leave them a ball field and a field house to propitiate the residents of St. Helena, but I don't think so, not in St. Helena. The residents of St. Helena would have been up in arms, fighting tooth and nail. But what good would it do them? That small community could not fight the county alone. They would need help from the rest of Dundalk. But then again, why should the rest of Dundalk have cared? It would not have been in their backyards!

This is not directed specifically at St. Helena alone. There just happens to be an individual from St. Helena who is an outstanding citizen of Dundalk and contributes much to Dundalk's well being who seems to think the Vanguard proposal and using recreational facilities and parkland for commercial development is OK. The sale of Baltimore County parkland to commercial development is a precedent never before used in Baltimore County or any other Maryland county. It is a precedent that will have disastrous consequences to the quality of life in Baltimore County. Every parcel of parkland in Dundalk and the rest of Baltimore County will be vulnerable to the same fate as the North Point Center.

Most of our recreation centers are over 50 years old. Nearly all of our parklands have appeal to developers for additional housing, particularly waterfront, or others for commercial development. To all the people of Dundalk, the North Point Center is not just a battle for the people of Eastfield-Stanbrook. It's a challenge for all of Dundalk. North Point Center is not in my backyard, but I see the nonsensical reasoning of inundating Dundalk with more stores when we already have currently over 140 stores vacant. That's right — over 140 which I have personally photographed and documented.

Vanguard proposes "12 separate buildings to include restaurants, fast casual dining, ice cream or frozen yogurt shop, urgent care facility, convenience store/gas station facility, a drive-in fast food restaurant and other not yet defined retail." Do you see any of these stores that we do not already have in the immediate proximity of the North Point Center?

We all need to stand up for Eastfield-Stanbrook. Your community could be next.

Bob Staab, Dundalk

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