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Baltimore Co. gets parkland fund, home-seller advisory on zoning


The Baltimore County Council set up a fund last night for voluntary contributions to buy parkland and passed legislation requiring home sellers to instruct buyers to check with county agencies for any development plans before buying into a community.

Councilman Vincent Gardina, D-5th, sponsored the bill to require home sellers to warn prospective buyers that they should check with county planning agencies to see what's in store for the neighborhood before signing a contract.

The measure, which passed 7-0, will require a seller to advise a prospective buyer in writing that the property "may be affected by provisions of the master plan and that he may wish to review the master plan." It will take effect Jan. 1.

The notice, which the buyer would have to sign as part of the sales contract, also advises that "to become fully informed of current and future land-use plans . . . affecting the property or area, [the buyer] should consult the appropriate county agency for information."

Mr. Gardina said the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors dropped its opposition to the bill after he agreed to delete a section that allowed the buyer to cancel the contract if the notice were left out. He said the buyer would have the option of taking the seller to court if the notice is omitted.

Mr. Gardina said the law is intended to make sure that people who buy homes are alerted beforehand to impending changes in roads, schools, open space and water and sewer service in their new communities.

He noted that neighbors in one Perry Hall community learned years after moving into the area that the county planned to turn Gunview Road, a quiet, dead-end street, into a highway for motorists seeking an alternative to Belair Road.

Homebuyer protection measures have also been enacted in Howard and Montgomery counties.

The council unanimously passed a bill last night sponsored by Berchie Lee Manley, R-1st, setting up a county Open Space Revenue Account, to be financed by citizen contributions that would be used annually to buy open space. The six other council members co-sponsored the measure.

County taxpayers will get an insert explaining the fund's purpose in their annual tax bills, but Mrs. Manley emphasized that there would be no obligation to make a donation. Contributions would most likely not be tax-deductible, said Thomas J. Peddicord Jr., the council's legislative counsel.

Once a year, the recreation and parks director would develop a list of proposed uses for the contributions and submit the list to the council after consulting with the county executive or the county administrative officer, according to the bill.

Mrs. Manley said the measure was a result of what she learned in her efforts to save the Loveman Tract, a 13-acre parcel off Harlem Lane in Catonsville that is now slated to be developed into 80 town houses.

The county's February 1990 master plan listed the property -- along with 39 other tracts -- as a proposed site for a park. But it was sold for development after the council tabled a bill aimed at buying it. Council members said its $1.4 million price was too high.

About six county residents came to last night's session to tell the council they were opposed to former County Attorney Arnold Jablon's appointment to the newly created post of administrator of the zoning office. Critics said the post was an unnecessary expansion of the bureaucracy and that Mr. Jablon was ill-suited to fill it.

"We're going into unchartered waters with this thing," said state Delegate Louis L. DePazzo, D-7th. "We seem to be creating a new department of zoning."

County Executive Roger B. Hayden had planned to name Mr. Jablon zoning commissioner, but withdrew the appointment last week, saying the office workload required a full-time administrator. A number of community groups had expressed opposition.

Council Chairman Douglas B. Riley, R-4th, told the council last night that he was flooded with calls last week about Mr. Jablon and the zoning commissioner's post. But he said callers were evenly split between supporters and critics.

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