Dundalk residents continue fight against government center sale

Dundalk residents fight sale of government center at Board of Appeals and in court.

A group of Dundalk residents who are fighting redevelopment of the North Point Government Center took their case to Baltimore County's Board of Appeals on Thursday. But no matter how the board rules, the residents said, they still plan to take the county to court.

Baltimore County is selling the government center at the corner of Wise Avenue and Merritt Boulevard to a private developer for $7.6 million. Baltimore-based Vanguard Commercial Development plans to build offices, retail shops, restaurants, a gas station and a pharmacy in a complex to be called Merritt Pavilion. The county has promised to build the community a new recreation center elsewhere on the property.

Michael J. Moran, an attorney for residents fighting the sale, said it doesn't provide the "community benefit" required by law, and residents are losing sports fields, space for arts programs and other amenities the government center has provided.

Residents feel "they have been shut out of the system," Moran said.

Vanguard attorney Lawrence E. Schmidt said those concerns have no relevance before the Board of Appeals. The panel is charged with deciding whether the development plan meets the county's technical requirements, such as stormwater and traffic guidelines.

"They're in the wrong place to bring up any of these arguments," he said.

Moran said he wants the board to send the case back to an administrative judge to review whether the sale was proper.

The board did not indicate Thursday when it would rule on that request.

Moran said the developments' opponents have filed a lawsuit in Baltimore County Circuit Court.

He also noted the sale requires the approval of state officials. Because the building, once North Point Junior High School, was given to the county by the school system in the early 1980s, the sale must be submitted to the state's Board of Public Works.

The county expects the state board to approve the transfer at a meeting in September, Baltimore County spokeswoman Ellen Kobler said.

Leonard Weinberg II, a principal with Vanguard, said Thursday that he's in negotiations with office tenants and fast-casual restaurants, and hopes to announce the development's first occupants later this year.

pwood@baltsun.com

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