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Roland Park makes big push to buy Baltimore Country Club land

With Baltimore Country Club officials sitting in the audience, Roland Park community leaders Tuesday announced plans to raise $10 million in an effort to buy part of the pristine club land for preservation.

With Baltimore Country Club officials in the audience Tuesday evening, Roland Park community leaders announced plans to raise $10 million in an effort to buy part of the pristine club land for preservation.

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The potential sale of the land has been controversial since 2008, when Keswick Multi-Care Center reached a deal with the club to buy 17 acres of the green space for $12.5 million, for use as a retirement community.

Keswick backed away from the deal after Roland Park residents staged protests in a fight that came to define the upscale community's passion for preserving the green space within its borders.

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Since then, the civic league has made no secret of its desire to purchase the land and has been meeting quietly with club officials.

On Tuesday, at the annual meeting of the Roland Park Civic League, Phil Spevak, league president, said the community was seeking $10 million, not only for the club, but for other projects as well — including the restoration of the old Roland Water Tower.

The land at Falls and Hillside roads was the site of the country club's tennis courts until its Five Farms facility in Lutherville expanded in 2007, adding 10 courts and a clubhouse. At about the same time, the historic Falls Road courts closed.

The club still uses the clubhouse and will continue to do so, Spevak said.

Robert Goodier, president of the club's Board of Governors, sat in the audience with two other club officials and said afterward that the club has turned down several offers for the land since the Keswick negotiations ended, including two offers by Roland Park Civic League officials.

Goodier would not say how much money it would take to convince the club to sell the land to Roland Park, but he said the club is open to selling it to the league.

But he said the club would not wait forever.

"We're working with them, but they need to get moving," Goodier said after the meeting at Roland Park Elementary/Middle School.

The civic league has raised millions of dollars in recent years to renovate the water tower, expand the local library and modernize the local fire station, among other projects.

Spevak said he believes the league can now raise its largest amount of money yet, which would equate to $10,000 per household in the neighborhood of 1,051 homes.

But he said the opportunity to preserve one of the area's last significant parcels of undeveloped land was worth it in a neighborhood that has a property tax base of $565 million and paid more than $12 million in property taxes collectively last year.

"If we want it, we have to personally sacrifice," said Spevak.

Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who was among several elected city and state leaders at the meeting, said she also believes Roland Park can raise the money, but added, "It's not going to happen overnight."

She said she doesn't want the civic league to get ahead of itself.

"I'd like to make sure the water tower gets finished," she said.

Goodier and the other club officials said that they appreciated Spevak's positive tone, after a long fight that left club and league officials bitter.

"I thought it was fantastic that they were here," Spevak said. "It's a healthy sign of the evolution of the discussion in the direction it needs to go."

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