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County Council resolution clears way to accept land donation from city

Baltimore County moved one step closer to acquiring 11 acres of land in Catonsville on Tuesday when the County Council unanimously passed a resolution accepting a donation of the property from Baltimore City.

The $110,000 property sits at the end of Maple Avenue near Frederick and Rolling roads in the western section of Catonsville.

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Councilman Tom Quirk, who represents the 1st District, which includes Catonsville, stressed that the property will belong to Baltimore until the appropriate paperwork is signed.

He said on Wednesday morning that could be done "soon."

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Once the paperwork is signed, the land will come back under county control more than 90 years after the Baltimore County Water and Electric Co. deeded it to the city.

"We're working on getting that land into county control," Quirk said. "My sole objective is that that land stays as open space.

"Not every acre of land should have a house or a building," he said.

The state defines open space as preserved, unimproved green space that is not improved with permanent recreation facilities.

The deed the city is drawing up, Quirk said, will give NeighborSpace control of how the land is developed.

A nonprofit organization, NeighborSpace aims to preserve open space in the most populated areas of Baltimore County.

According to its website, NeighborSpace has nine properties totaling 26 acres of protected land around Baltimore County. None of those properties are in the southwestern portion of the county, however.

Quirk noted that the acquisition of the 11 acres of land would increase the amount of land the organization has preserved by more than 40 percent.

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John Murphy, the president of NeighborSpace, cautioned that the land acquisition wasn't a done deal.

"It's an important step. But it's not complete yet, so it's pretty hard to say what exactly is going to happen," Murphy said. "Hopefully, the neighbors will enjoy the open space, and we certainly will support whatever they want to do."

Asked about the possibility of adding walking or bike trails, Quirk said it was too early to predict what would happen but that whatever does happen will be up to the community.

"If something eventually does happen back there, it will only be through working in conjunction with the residents of Maple Avenue and the greater community," Quirk said. "I want to make sure it doesn't have an adverse impact on anyone."

If the land were to be used as anything other than open space, Quirk said, NeighborSpace would have to sign off on it.

On Sept. 23, Eileen Leaman and her husband, Bruce, sent a letter to County Executive Kevin Kamenetz on behalf of the community regarding concerns about how the space will be used and the traffic that could take up parking spots and endanger residents.

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The letter noted that Maple Avenue is only 17- to 21-feet wide and has no curbs or sidewalks, which forces pedestrians into the street.

More than 30 children under age 18 live on the road, the letter stated, and many of them walk to Frederick Road to wait for the bus.

Attached to the letter was a petition signed by 90 percent of the residents on Maple Avenue and its offshoot Narbeth Road, Eileen Leaman said.

"The property already serves the community both locally and at large as a natural buffer to other developed properties and more importantly to Patapsco State Park itself," the petition stated.

The petition requested that the area be preserved as a natural watershed and waterlands buffer and no signs be placed directing people to the reserve.

Additionally, the petition requested the county disallow automobile access to the reserve, development no roads or parking areas and address concerns that may arise about the public parking on private property.

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For Eileen Leaman, a resident of Maple Avenue for more than 30 years, her wish is simple.

"I just want it to remain the way it is," she said Thursday.

This story has been updated.


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