Sending a message to Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, the Maryland Board of Public Works deferred action Wednesday on a proposed $2.3 million state contribution to a new horse riding center in Cockeysville.
Gov. Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot voted to delay acting on the county's request for Program Open Space money, which would help pay for the 9,800-square-foot arena. The board's other member, Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp, dissented.
Franchot told county officials he had heard complaints that plans for the proposed therapeutic equestrian center were developed without adequate input from the community. But the comptroller also linked the project to the Kamenetz administration's decision to sell off the North Point Government Center in Dundalk.
While Franchot and Kamenetz are both Democrats, the two are seen as intraparty rivals. Franchot and Hogan, a Republican, are allies.
Kamenetz has said he is considering challenging the Republican governor in the 2018 election.
The board has been the scene of several political skirmishes between the Hogan-Franchot alliance and Kamenetz.
The governor and comptroller joined forces to withhold money from Baltimore County because they were dissatisfied with the pace of plans to install air conditioning in county schools. They have also thwarted Kamenetz's plan to sell the North Point center to a developer.
Franchot chided Baltimore County on Wednesday for allowing the center to fall into what he called "a complete state of dilapidation and disrepair."
Kamenetz, meanwhile, has not agreed to a state plan to eradicate midges on the Back River.
Hogan said he had no quarrel with the plan to build an equestrian center at the Baltimore County Center for Maryland Agriculture and Farm Park. But he echoed Franchot's criticism of the county's plans for the Dundalk complex, saying the county wants to replace the center with fast-food restaurants.
"We want to have some better explanation of what's going on in Dundalk," Hogan said.
Kopp said she didn't see any purpose in delaying the vote on the equestrian center other than "holding this project hostage."
"I'm not holding anything hostage," Franchot said.
The Kamenetz administration wants to build a $3 million arena where horse enthusiasts could ride and take classes. The center would also offer therapeutic riding programs, including for military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The county's share would be $775,000.
The Department of Natural Resources determined that the project fits with the goals of Program Open Space, which is financed through taxes on real estate sales.
The Kamenetz administration decided in 2012 to sell the North Point Center at Merritt Boulevard and Wise Avenue to private developers. But the sale required approval by the state board because the building was once a junior high school that was financed with state funds. Pointing to community opposition to the county's plan, Hogan and Franchot have refused to vote on the sale.
The building no longer houses government offices but is used by some community groups. The county wants to raze the building and redevelop the site as a mixed-use project that would include medical offices, stores, restaurants and a gas station. The county's plans also call for a new community center.
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