The Baltimore Ravens cleared the first hurdle in their effort to build a new Owings Mills training center yesterday when the Baltimore County Planning Board recommended rezoning 25 acres for the facility.
The recommendation, approved 7-4, goes to the County Council for a final vote.
The board voted after 90 minutes of intense debate over whether the land should be rezoned and the project's financial implications for the county.
The proposed training facility, which would include four football fields, a training area and administrative offices, would sit on part of 322 acres the county has purchased for Northwest Regional Park.
West of Deer Park Road
The property being considered for the Ravens is on the west side of Deer Park Road.
The east side of the road is set aside for four baseball fields, three athletic fields, community gardens and a playground.
Leading the dissenters was board member Dorothy Foos, who expressed concern about the precedent rezoning the property might set.
"I have a real problem in that if we just arbitrarily change zoning then we are participating in spot zoning," Foos said. "I think it's dangerous when we take zoning and arbitrarily change it."
Other board members countered that accommodating the team could keep them from moving out of the county.
"They're going to move, so it would be good to keep them in Baltimore County," board member Gordon K. Harden said. "There's a civic pride here."
Questions on financing
Board members peppered county officials with questions about financial arrangements.
The current training center has become a source of dispute in Baltimore City, which leases the facility to the Ravens for $1 a year. City Comptroller Joan M. Pratt recommended that the team be charged $300,000.
Robert L. Hannon, executive director of the county's Department of Economic Development, said that although the county and team have had preliminary discussions about costs, terms have not been finalized.
Hannon told the board that the agreement will be at a minimum "revenue neutral," a term that pleased board member Ellwood A. Sinsky.
"What's important is that term 'revenue neutral,'" Sinsky said. "Because we don't want the county paying for this."
Since the former Cleveland Browns arrived in Baltimore in 1996 and were rechristened the Ravens, the team has been using the city-owned training complex of the Baltimore Colts at 11001 Owings Mills Blvd.
The proposed site is about three miles west of that facility.