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Letter: Community benefits prove developer's projects worked for Catonsville

Paul Dongarra's at it again, pontificating on the evil influence of developers, especially yours truly, corrupting our system ("Campaign contributions pay off for developers," Catonsville Times, March 7).

News flash! Developers make contributions to politicians. That happens to be legal, within prescribed limits, and also happens to be very public information.

Every citizen has the same right and, on at least one count, I happen to agree with him.

If particular candidates share your views on important issues, put your money where your mouth is and back them financially. Supporting candidates who espouse your values is your absolute constitutional right.

Whalen Properties has exercised that right and will continue to do so within applicable legal constraints. You can follow our contribution details ad nauseam in Mr. Dongarra's continuing letters to the Catonsville Times. As is his right.

We have done much rezoning work over 31 years in business.

In each case, it has been open and above board, with full disclosure and multiple upfront discussions with affected communities.

Some, such as Rolling Crossroads back in 1984, were highly controversial.

Others, such as Catonsville Professional Center, 300 Frederick Road, Crossroads West, and Foxhall Farm, went much more smoothly. The critical point, however, is that each development worked out successfully.

We have a long track record in this town, in which I was born, raised, and lived all my 61 years.

We try hard to do what we promise. That has often helped us win over residents and certainly has helped convince decision-makers to take a chance on our proposals. We attempt to craft intelligent ideas that pass the test of common sense.

At the end of the day, political decisions on zoning should be judged by their results.

As controversial as Rolling Crossroads was, it has proven a real economic anchor for Catonsville, north of Route 40.

Many of the residents who opposed us then, often vociferously, have come back over the intervening 28 years to admit their initial opposition proved unfounded and emphasize they now appreciate the value of the project to the community and utilize its professional services.

We were among the first to recommend that the Catonsville courthouse consider relocating to Spring Grove Hospital Center, a suggestion made directly to the court's real estate representative.

The state's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which owns the hospital campus, was apparently unmotivated even to consider that option. We had zero influence over that decision. So the court was forced to Plan B.

Our site at Rolling Crossroads was the only Catonsville location meeting the court's location and size criteria, and they actively pursued us to acquire the property. (Then) County Executive Jim Smith actually called to urge we help the court system by agreeing to a sale.

The final sales price was derived by multiple appraisals, ordered by the Maryland Department of General Services, not us; it was nowhere close to the highest of the three appraisal valuations they received.

Finally, I "denounced" no one at Kenwood Gardens. I bemoaned that, despite more than a year of attempted discussions, many of those folks took the highly unrealistic position that they wanted nothing whatsoever on our long-zoned office site and simply refused to work with us. Period.

Mr. Dongarra denounces our facility in achieving zoning changes but, at Kenwood, our property was zoned for office before the first condo owner across the street ever acquired a new unit.

It's easy, and wrong, to say that Councilman Tom Quirk failed to listen to the Kenwood community, but what happens when the community fails to apply even a modicum of common sense? Takes an unreasonable, unrealistic, untenable position?

Isn't that when it's up to the councilman to show leadership, to do the right thing even when it's not the popular thing, to educate rather than instigate?

Kudos to Tom Quirk for having learned this lesson quickly.

Stephen Whalen Jr.

Whalen Properties

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