Without discussion, members of the Baltimore County Council approved a new contract for the sale of the North Point Government Center in Dundalk to a shopping center developer during the final meeting of their term Monday night.
The new contract raises the price of the property on the corner of Merritt Boulevard and Wise Avenue from $2.1 million to $7.6 million and absolves developer Vanguard Commercial Development from having to build a recreation center as initially promised. Vanguard will pay the purchase price with a combination of up-front cash, a payment plan and forgoing lucrative property tax breaks.
The county government will now build the recreation center, while Vanguard will focus on its retail and office complex, which will be called Merritt Pavilion.
The unanimous council vote came without any public discussion by council members.
A handful of Dundalk residents expressed their disappointment after the vote. They said they haven't been kept in the loop on changes to the deal and object overall to the sale of government land for commercial development.
"Again, there's been no transparency. … There's still too many unanswered questions," said Karen Cruz, president of the nearby Eastfield-Stanbrook Community Association.
"What's happening to the people here — it's not just and it's not right," said Johnny Ray Salling, a Republican who was just elected to the state Senate to represent Dundalk and Essex.
Council members also effectively killed a bill that would have made it easier for farmers to add additional money-making activities such as hayrides, corn mazes and picnic grounds. The bill from outgoing Councilman Todd Huff, a Lutherville Republican, would have listed those activities as allowed "by right," meaning no special zoning approval would be needed.
The bill was tabled on a 6-1 vote, which effectively kills the measure.
Huff said he hoped the next council will continue working on ways to help farmers keep their businesses viable.
"The most important thing is to look out for our farmers," he said.
Monday's meeting was the final meeting for Huff, John Olszewski Sr. of Dundalk and Kenneth N. Oliver of Randallstown. The next council will be sworn into office on Dec.1.