Revitalizing Winters Lane to be discussed Oct. 7

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Residents who live in the Winters Lane community of Catonsville, a historically African American area located between Frederick Road and Baltimore National Pike, are looking for ways to revitalize their community.

"We've had so many types of activities that have decreased the property values in our community," said Charlotte Wood, president of the Concerned Citizens of Catonsville Community Association, "We want to keep the market value of our homes high."

A county assessment shows that the "land value for properties in Winters Lane is fairly low," with few properties valued over $200,000, lower than median home values in Baltimore County, according to Baltimore County Department of Planning information.

Nearby homes in the heart of Catonsville command prices upwards of $700,000, according to Coldwell Banker listings.

At the community organization's meeting to be held Tuesday, Oct. 7, the Baltimore County Department of Planning will present information on topics such as the community's history, and ways residents can increase their property values.

The county officials also want to hear from community residents on which key issues they would like to be addressed, said Donnell Zeigler, a county planner.

Among those issues, Wood said, would be the vacant houses in the community.

The county can help with that issue through the Permits, Approvals and Inspections' Department of Code Enforcement. Code Enforcement is responsible for issuing correction notices and citations and can send in contractors to remove debris, according to Ellen Kobler, a county spokeswoman.

Information about the planning department's Housing Opportunities Program will also be discussed at the meeting.

The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. and will be held at the Banneker Community Center, 27 Main Ave.

"I'm completely on board to get more improvement and revitalization in that area and I know that [Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz] is also," said Councilman Tom Quirk, who represents the area.

"We want to make sure we lay the right ground work and have the right plan in place, which is why the department of planning is doing this assessment," Quirk said.

Wood said she hopes the county will pay more attention to the area.

For example, she believes the county overlooked the community when determining where to build additional elementary schools to solve the issue of overcrowding.

She said she would like to have seen a new elementary school built within her community instead along busy Bloomsbury Avenue. That addition, she said, could increase property values in the area.

"The county could have put an elementary school on the Banneker site, rather than building the school on the site of Bloomsbury," Wood said. "There is plenty of land here."

The Winters Lane community was designated as a historic district and added to the list of National Register of Historic Places in 2007, although it is not one of Baltimore County's historic districts.

It contains 155 properties including 141 residential properties, two former schools, three commercial buildings, three social clubs and five church-related buildings, according to a historical account of the area published by the National Register Listings in Maryland.

The historic district includes sections of Edmondson Avenue, Shipley Avenue, Roberts Avenue, Leawood Avenue and Old Frederick Road, and is a "cohesive African-American neighborhood" that began to develop after the Civil War, with descendants of its original residents who continue to reside in the area today, the National Register says.

According to National Register information, the area was initially settled by the Harris family in 1865, former slaves at the Crosby estate.

The historic designation means certain homes and structures within the area are historically significant and therefore eligible for historic tax credits through Baltimore County.

The purpose of such a designation is to safeguard the heritage of the county, stabilize and improve property values in historic districts, foster civic pride and strengthen the economy, county information said.

The county grants historic tax credit which equals 20 percent of all expenses exceeding $1,000, according to planning department information. The credit can be used for the rehabilitation of designated historic properties that are in the National Register of Historic Places or on the Baltimore County Final Landmarks List.

That credit can be applied to most exterior work done, with the exception of additions and the majority of interior updates, with the exclusion of kitchen and bathrooms, county information says.

For information about the county housing programs, go to: http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/planning/housingopportunities/

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