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Dutch's necessary ingredient

THE BALTIMORE SUN

REBUILDING a neighborhood without using eminent domain is a little like making a cake without baking powder. It won't rise to the possibilities.

So if Baltimore County is going to rejuvenate the east side, county officials had better make sure all the different pieces come together -- from better policing to rehabilitating decrepit commercial centers. Eminent domain is as important a component in this process as the recently completed beautification of Eastern Avenue beyond the city line.

Rebuilding sidewalks, creating planted medians with brick accents and repaving roads alone won't turn around a neighborhood. Yet, the spruced-up streetscape considerably improves the Eastwood neighborhood's appearance and gives reason for property owners to improve their homes and businesses along Eastern Avenue.

Creation of a waterfront destination, as called for in Mr. Ruppersberger's plan, won't transform the east side by itself, but an attractive complex of stores, restaurants, marinas and housing should serve as a catalyst for private investment in surrounding neighborhoods. Properties along Old Eastern Avenue and the waterfront must be assembled for this project to be completed.

The county has already acquired three properties and is negotiating with others. If one owner holds out, the waterfront project could end up like a smile with a missing front tooth. Condemnation is a tool the county can use should negotiations fail. Property owners will be compensated fairly and will be paid relocation expenses.

Condemnation opponents are right to point out this extraordinary power can be abused.

The potential for misuse isn't, however, a sufficient reason to exclude it from the complex recipe for revitalizing the Essex-Middle River area.

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