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Baltimore County seeks to alter terms for sale of North Point Government Center

Baltimore County's North Point Government Center.
Baltimore County's North Point Government Center. (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun File)

A year after Baltimore County decided to sell a Dundalk government building to a developer, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz is seeking to change some terms of the deal, including raising the purchase price.

The Kamenetz administration has proposed changing the price of the North Point Government Center from $2.1 million to $7.6 million, but will also relieve the buyer, Baltimore-based Vanguard Commercial Development, of a requirement to build a recreation center for the community.

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Instead, the county will build the new center.

Over the objections of some residents in the Dundalk community, the county last year made the deal to sell the government center at the corner of Merritt Boulevard and Wise Avenue. Vanguard plans to redevelop the site with a complex of offices, restaurants and retail shops that will be called Merritt Pavilion.

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Vanguard also initially promised to build a recreation center, which will now be built by the county under the terms of the new deal.

The changes to the deal were presented publicly for the first time Wednesday at a County Council work session, and the council is expected to approve the revised deal at its meeting Monday evening in Towson.

While the new price is $7.6 million, the developer won't be paying that amount in up-front cash. Vanguard will pay $2.283 million to the county initially, then $3.147 million in twice-yearly payments financed by the county that carry a 4 percent interest rate.

The remaining $2.17 million is worked out in a deal regarding property tax payments. Because the site is in a designated revitalization area, Vanguard is eligible to pay lower property tax rates for 10 years. But the company will forgo that revitalization credit and pay higher rates in exchange for $2.17 million credit on the sale price.

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Leonard Weinberg II, a principal with Vanguard, said the company is comfortable with paying more for the property because it's shedding responsibility for the recreation center.

"I'm paying more, but before I was building more," said Weinberg. He declined to discuss other aspects of the deal.

County Councilman John Olszewski Sr., a Democrat who represents Dundalk but who is retiring from the seat in December, said the revised contract is a good deal. He noted the $7.6 million price is above a recent $7.1 million appraisal of the property.

Olszewski also likes that county government will now build the recreation center, which he said will be larger than what was initially promised to residents.

But Karen Cruz, president of the nearby Eastfield-Stanbrook Community Association, said the community has not been kept in the loop on the revised deal. She said she learned about it too late to testify at Wednesday's work session, and said there's no public hearing before Monday's vote.

"The community feels like we're getting the short end of the stick," said Cruz, who also works with the group Dundalk United, which was formed to oppose the sale of the government center. She said even the expanded recreation center will fall short of the needs of the sports and theater groups that use space in the existing center.

"Why they're pushing it through doesn't make sense," she said. "With the tax credits, it sounds like $7.6 million — but it isn't really."

Todd Crandell, a Dundalk Republican who will be sworn in on Dec. 1 as the new councilman for the area, has asked the council to postpone the vote.

Merritt Pavilion is expected to include 60,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space and about 16,000 square feet of offices. The county's review of the project is under way, with Vanguard projecting a fall 2016 opening.

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