When Baltimore County announced in June its plan to acquire 2.5 acres of Radebaugh Florist property off Aigburth Avenue in Towson to preserve it from potential development, it sounded like a done deal.
But an attorney for the Radebaugh family immediately called the announcement "premature," and five months later, the sale has yet to be finalized, according County Councilman David Marks, who represents Towson and has been pushing for more open space in the area.
The county government would pay for the land using $1.1 million in Program Open Space funding but is balking at paying as much as $500,000 to demolish several greenhouses on the site, because Program Open Space does not cover demolition costs, Marks said. He said the county is claiming it will cost that much to raze the greenhouses, but that he thinks it will cost far less.
Marks held a public meeting last week to brief residents of surrounding neighborhoods, including Aigburth Manor, Burkleigh Square and Towson Manor Village, on the status of the project.
"I wanted to give the community an update on where things stood," Marks said. He said he also urged those in attendance to tell County Executive Kevin Kamenetz that they support the project.
Kaitlin Radebaugh, sales manager for the store at 120 Burke Ave., and co-owner of the separate, nearby property that the county wants to buy at 50 Aigburth Ave., confirmed that negotiations are still under way.
"I think there are a lot of things the county wants to go through on their end," Radebaugh said.
She expressed surprise at the county's original announcement, saying, "It certainly wasn't the way we wanted it to be handled.".
Nonetheless, Radebaugh, who attended Marks' meeting with residents, said, "We're very hopeful" that a deal will get done. "They all seemed excited about the possibility of open space."
Kamenetz's office would not comment for this story.
"We don't discuss ongoing negotiations," said spokeswoman Ellen Kobler.
"It does appear that the county may have been premature in announcing the project," said Paul Hartman, vice president of the Aigburth Manor Association of Towson. But he added, "We're not panicking. I think we as a community need to let the county executive know that we're behind this project."
In June, a county press release about plans for "passive parkland" on the site surprised Daniel Radebaugh, a Towson-based real estate lawyer, whose father, Stephen Radebaugh, is a principal in CM and JL Radebaugh Co., LLLP, which owns the land.
"We haven't even seen a contract," he said at the time.
Radebaugh Florist uses the land on Aigburth Avenue as a design center with warehouse and greenhouse space.
The press release said the county was buying the land at its appraised price of $1.1 million, using Program Open Space money.
"The property is zoned for residential development, and this purchase prevents the development of this area," the release stated.
The county is buying the west side of the property with the greenhouses, and would raze the greenhouses, Donald Mohler III, who is Kamenetz's chief of staff, said in a separate email at the time. Radebaugh's would retain the warehouse portion of the property, Mohler said then.
"I am very pleased to be able to add more passive open space in Towson," Kamenetz said in the press release. In April, Kamenetz announced a $4.2 million project to expand the Courthouse Gardens to Patriot Plaza between the Historic Courthouse and the Towson Courts building.
"Adding this [Radebaugh] space to the recently announced expansion of the Courthouse Gardens provides residents with two very nice areas to enjoy with family and friends right in the heart of Towson, and represents an investment of over $5 million for new parks in downtown Towson," Kamenetz said in the release.