Officials seek buyer for excess property But residents want to use site for park


The County Commissioners are selling a South Carroll property no longer needed for public purposes, although residents have said the Mineral Hill site is perfect for a much-needed community park.

Dan Hughes, founder of Solutions for a Better South Carroll, has urged the county to keep the property, a 21.5-acre tract along Mineral Hill Road between Oakland Road and Arthur Avenue.

"Where could the county buy 21 acres of park land for $280,000?" Hughes asked. "The topography might not be good for a school, but why not a park?"

The county recently advertised the Mineral Hill Road property, a sloping, undeveloped site that was bequeathed to the Board of Education in the 1950s. Buyers must submit sealed bids for at least $280,000 by March 20.

The school board rejected the conservation-zoned property for a school site and deeded it to the county in 1994.

"You can't always put a school where you have land available," said Isaac Menasche, senior assistant county attorney. "There is no public use for this site and it is best to sell the property."

Commissioner Richard T. Yates said he was willing to discuss the park proposal, "but without a really demanding use, I want to sell the property and get it back on the tax rolls."

The bidding process likely will attract developers; several have inquired about the site. Zoning regulations would allow about 70 homes there.

The minimum bid sought by the county is lower than the appraised value, but gives the county "room for movement," Menasche said.

"The minimum bid will weed out buyers who are not serious," Menasche said. The county often has public sales to dispose of unwanted property, but usually for much smaller sites, Menasche said.

"We buy land because we need it and develop it for the purposes needed," Menasche said. "But this site is deemed excess land. People must appreciate that land is held in trust for all citizens. We can sell this property and generate revenue."

Public water, but no sewer service, is available to the property, which has 174 feet of road frontage on Mineral Hill north of Route 26.

"The potential impact to Liberty Reservoir, coupled with the location street-wise and no public sewer, really created problems for us," said Lester Surber, supervisor of school facilities planning. "The topography pitches down to the lake and there is extensive rock outcropping."

Proceeds from the sale would go to future school construction projects, said Vernon Smith, director of school support services.

The county is building a fifth elementary for South Carroll on Linton Springs Road, a few miles west of Mineral Hill Road. When the school opens, possibly in September 1998, it should ease crowding.

The county is familiar with the costs for developing the Mineral Hill property. Last year, Yates offered the site to the Baltimore Ravens for a training facility. They rejected it.

"It cost too much to make it a level playing field," Yates said.

Hughes said he would prefer a public park to more homes in an area where development has overburdened existing services.

Hughes and others working on revising the county master plan -- a blueprint to guide growth -- said the county needs more recreational outlets for the nearly 25,000 South Carroll residents.

Hughes suggests that the county keep the land until it has money to create a park.

Pub Date: 2/07/97

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