Deal would move Baltimore animal shelter to Cherry Hill to make way for high-tech driving range

Baltimore’s spending panel is expected on Wednesday to resolve a tangled real estate deal that involves moving the city's animal shelter to make way for a high-tech driving range near Horseshoe Casino.

The Baltimore Development Corporation is asking the Board of Estimates to waive certain city rules to keep the way open for a deal the BDC says is otherwise at risk of collapsing.

The deal originated in 2012, when a company involved in the development of the casino secured the right to acquire a pair of city-owned lots. That arrangement has been updated several times and now also includes land that is home to the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter.

Last year, the developers agreed that if they ever wanted to use the lot they would build a new shelter somewhere else. They thought they had a location lined up in South Baltimore’s Lakeland neighborhood, but the BDC now says that agreement fell through when the owner of the Lakeland property couldn’t find somewhere to relocate its business.

So, the BDC found a parcel that the city owns in nearby Cherry Hill that officials say would be a good fit for a new animal shelter.

But that created a problem. By building on city land, the deal would normally be subject to “public works” rules and the project would have to be put up for bids from the public.

Following those rules could mean months of wasted work, BDC officials say.

“For the past 18 months, the Developer, in cooperation with the City, has invested substantial time and money with architects, engineers, and a contract to design and price the cost of the replacement facility on private property,” reads a summary of the situation presented to the Board of Estimates.

“Now, that private property is no longer available, the development that the City has sought under the [land disposition agreement] is in jeopardy of being abandoned unless another site for the replacement facility can be found.”

The answer? The BDC is asking the Board of Estimates to waive the public works rules so the deal can move ahead.

The proposed deal has the backing of the casino.

Erin Chamberlin, its general manager, said in a statement that the agreement “will enable the BARCS team to expand its important work in a new and larger facility while, simultaneously, ensuring the Horseshoe Casino partnership can advance its vision for the city’s next great entertainment district in the Southern Gateway.”

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