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Wagner's Point negotiations end abruptly


At 11 minutes after 8 o'clock last night, Rose Hindla, president of the Wagner's Point neighborhood coalition, stood up from the table at the Fairfield firehouse, grabbed her keys, and angrily announced: "Let's go!"

With that, leaders of Wagner's Point -- the heavily industrialSouth Baltimore area where 270 residents are seeking a buyout of their homes -- walked out of a negotiation session with city government. The walkout, just over an hour into the third session of negotiations that began in July, appeared to signal a new, bitter turn in the neighborhood's bid for relocation.

Residents said they bolted from the session because of the uncompromising stance of Reggie Scriber, a senior housing official. Scriber said that because a negotiated buyout for Wagner's Point homes has been slow in coming, the Schmoke administration will introduce a bill in the city council this fall to condemn the neighborhood and take the properties by eminent domain.

The city wants the land for a sewage plant expansion.

Scriber maintains that the city will pay no more than the appraised fair market value of the homes -- according to sample appraisals ordered by the city, $25,000 to $50,000 per rowhouse.

But residents say such appraisals are unfairly depressed by government economic development initiatives that have made Wagner's Point a magnet for oil and chemical firms. Residents, with backing from the area's elected officials, have been asking for enough money -- about $115,000 per homeowner -- to find houses of comparable size in an unpolluted neighborhood such as Locust Point, which, like Wagner's Point, sits by the water and has little crime.

Neighborhood leaders believe they can make up the gap between the city's offer and their prices by asking the chemical industry and state and federal governments for money. They fear that if the city condemns their properties, industry and government will no longer have any incentive to help them.

Pub Date: 9/18/98

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