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Impromptu Preservationist Meeting Draws Large Audience

 

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Spevak describes the zoning process (click for multimedia).

Carter reaffirms support for RP (click for multimedia).

Anne Stuzin and sign.

Volunteer coordinators Mike McQuestion and Mary Page Michel.

 

All photos: Sally Foster or Doug Munro.

Click each for a larger image.

Two Hundred at Impromptu RP Meeting

July 16, 2008

8:30 a.m.

Despite having been called at very short notice, a Roland Park community meeting, held outside the community-renovated Roland Park Pratt branch library, drew some 200 people to discuss the implications of the Baltimore County Club’s July 14 vote to sell green-space land to the Keswick Multi-Care Center for development.

Roland Park Civic League President Phil Spevak vowed that there would be no compromise on the league’s opposition to the rezoning of the land by the municipal government. For Keswick to be able to build its 323-unit continuing-care development, the land must be rezoned from low-density R-1 status to high-density R-5. If the land is not successfully rezoned, Keswick will back away from its $12.5 million purchase agreement with the BCC.

Spevak described the rezoning process, whereby community-specific rezoning bills are usually introduced by the member representing the district in question, making Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton’s continued support for RP critical. (Council Land Use and Transportation Committee Chair Ed Reisinger and Vice Chair James Kraft have both said that they will defer to Middleton.)

For his part, RP Community Foundation President Ken Rice said that it was “confounding” that BCC had excluded the community from its plans for the land. He dismissed the BCC’s claim that negotiating with the community would have taken too long, noting that it (BCC) was permitting Keswick three years to close on the transaction.

Rice also noted the irony that the original covenant on the title conveying the land from the Roland Park Co. to the BCC (19 Sep. 1902) had specifically stated that “no shop, store, factory, saloon, or business house of any kind, no hospital, asylum or institution of like or kindred nature, and no charitable institution, shall be erected or maintained on the premises hereby conveyed.” (The covenant expired in 1927.)

As for critics who ask why Roland Park did not offer $12.5 million for the land a decade ago, instead of $4.25 million, Rice pointed out that the land — all 30 acres, not just the 17 that Keswick wishes to buy — is only appraised at $1.99 million. “It is only worth $12.5 million if it is rezoned. And if it were rezoned for a casino, it would be worth even more.”

Seen in this light, Roland Park’s 1999 offer, not predicated on any rezoning, was generous indeed. Rice further pointed out that, while the BCC pays property taxes on the land, Keswick, if successful, as a on-profit would not.

Following Rice at the microphone was state Delegate Jill P. Carter (Dist. 41), who reaffirmed her commitment to the preservation cause. “I’m going to roll up my sleeves,” she said, continuing that many people from other parts of the city had e-mailed her, telling of their support, too, for the neighborhood’s struggle.

Finally, Spevak introduced a number of key local area association leaders:

  • Steven Broach, North Baltimore Neighborhood Coalition.
  • J. Walton Eldridge, Evergreen Community Association.
  • Morton J. (Jerry) Baum, National Association for Olmsted Parks.

Each reiterated his association’s support for Roland Park’s preservation stance. Eldridge reminded the audience of Evergreen’s successful 1995 battle against a would-be seniors’ development upon the old BGE right-of-way between Wilmslow Road and Stoney Run.

Spevak ended the meeting by mentioning that the fight will be a costly one: the parties for development have millions at stake and a battery of professionals working to make it happen. The neighborhood, by contrast, has enthusiastic volunteers — unpaid all. (To date, the Civic League has spent a little over $600 on the campaign, all other expenditure having come from volunteers’ own pockets.) Spevak introduced the Civic League's volunteer coordinators, Mary Page Michel and Mike McQuestion, who made an emotional plea for the preservation of green space in Roland Park.

At this, one local resident promptly pulled $100 worth of bills from his wallet and thrust them into Spevak’s hands, while another resident immediately wrote out a check for $1,000 and gave to Rice. Their contributions are much appreciated.

If you wish to contribute, please make checks payable to the Roland Park Advocacy Fund and mail to Roland Park Office, Advocacy Fund, P.O. Box 643, Riderwood, MD 21139. Attn: Pat Eckenrode. (The contributions are not tax-deductible.)

D.P. Munro

Web-site Editor

RolandPark.org

rpcommunication@rolandpark.org

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Back to Keswick/BBC sale main page? Click here.

Cameras rolling.

The crowd warms up.

Ken Rice describes land values and rezoning.

Del. Jill Carter coming to the mic to reaffirm her support for RP.

J. Walton Eldridge reminds the audience of Evergreen's succesful battle against rezoning in 1995.

Jerry Baum discusses the importance of Olmsted parks and properties as part of te nation's history.

 

All photos: Sally Foster or Doug Munro.

Click each for a larger image.