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Baltimore County urges state to OK money for equestrian center

Baltimore County officials are urging the state's Board of Public Works to rethink a decision to delay approval for a proposed equestrian center in Cockeysville.

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz wants to build the $3 million facility at the Baltimore County Center for Maryland Agriculture and Farm Park. About $2.3 million of the cost would come from Program Open Space money, which requires the state board's approval.

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At the board's meeting two weeks ago, Gov. Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot delayed voting on the plan and criticized both the project and Kamenetz. State Treasurer Nancy Kopp, the third member of the board, accused the two men of "holding this project hostage."

County lobbyist Yolanda Winkler later sent the board's staff additional information about the project and reiterated that state officials who administer Program Open Space have endorsed the use of the money.

Program Open Space gets its money from a transfer tax paid when properties are sold. The money is used for buying and developing parkland.

"I should also note that in the history of Program Open Space, the Board of Public Works has never rejected a Baltimore County proposed project," Winkler wrote. She urged the board to put the project back on the agenda.

The county has not received a response to the letter, according to Don Mohler, chief of staff and spokesman for Kamenetz. The board's next meeting is Jan. 4.

Kamenetz has tangled with Hogan and Franchot before over issues involving the Board of Public Works, including air conditioning in schools, the sale of a county government center in Dundalk to a shopping center developer and a midge-eradication program for the Back River.

Kamenetz, a Democrat, is considering whether to run against Hogan, a Republican, in the 2018 gubernatorial election. Though Franchot is a Democrat, he has frequently sided with Hogan on issues concerning Kamenetz.

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