Council to vote on buying house on B & A Trail for visitors center


The Anne Arundel County Planning Advisory Board has recommended that the County Council buy a one-story house along the Baltimore-Annapolis Trail and turn the one-third acre site into a park and visitor's center.

Councilwoman Diane Evans is expected to ask the council to pay a little more than $200,000 for the Regester property in the first block of Holly Avenue. The vote is scheduled for Aug. 7.

The board's unanimous approval brought smiles to many of those who attended Monday's meeting.

"We were elated," said Rick Zablocki, president of the Greater Severna Park Council. "We feel that we're trying to develop a heart for Severna Park, and this will provide some of that."

The property, located near the old Severna Park railroad station, is across the street from the Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church and the YMCA building the church is buying.

The house had been owned and occupied by Oscar Hatton, developer for the Severna Corp., the company that built Old Severna Park. Mr. Hatton also was a justice of the peace and used a room in the house as a courtroom.

When relatives sought to sell the property, community groups asked Ms. Evans to help buy the property and find a use for it.

With the aid of local community groups, the Association for Severna Park Improvement, Renewal and Enhancement (ASPIRE) Inc. wants to raise $25,000 to put toward the purchase and to improve the property, said Pat Troy, chairwoman of ASPIRE's Board of Trustees.

The community groups hope to turn the property into a rest haven for exercise enthusiasts using the Baltimore-Annapolis Trail, said Ms. Troy. Plans are being made to add park benches, water fountains, and perhaps a bandstand for concerts.

Plans for the house have included adding a visitor's center and a historical exhibit of the town, said Linda Zahn, executive director of the Greater Severna Park Chamber of Commerce.

"We see it as not just for Severna Park," she said. "If we could have something like that for all of the people who use the B & A Trail . . . it would be a real enhancement to the trail and the community."

Planning Advisory Board member Newton Gentry said the board made its recommendation after being swayed by plans to upgrade the property.

"We assume that this addition will help and further embellish the use of the B & A Trail," said Mr. Gentry, noting that the property would serve as a "way station" for trail users. "There [also] appeared to be strong support from the community of Severna Park."

Mr. Zablocki said the property is important to "combat" the urban presence spreading from Baltimore and Annapolis.

"We want to restore a village identity," he said. "We all think it would have a positive impact on the community. It would make a good place better."

Ms. Troy said she is "very optimistic" about the council's vote.

"We have a very strong case to present," she said. "We've done our homework, and we're united as a community."

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