Courthouse Urged For Heart Of Parole

March 22, 1992|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff writer

A new District Court building may be the right medicine targeted in the wrong place to help an ailing Parole community.

Members of a county-appointed advisory group, charged with revitalizing the Annapolis suburb, say a $15.7 million district courthouse proposed by state officials for a 55-acre property along Bestgate Road will only continue an urban sprawl that already blights the area.

Instead, they say the courthouse ought to be built within Parole's "deteriorating core," located between Forest Drive and Jennifer Road.

"Parole's problem has always been sprawl," said Charles Lamb, an architect and member of the Parole Area Management Committee. "The county needs to look at this (core area) and keep it from deteriorating further."

Lamb pitched a plan Friday to members of the House ofDelegates from Anne Arundel County that would make the courthouse the hub of a pedestrian-oriented urban center and would be the genesis for the redevelopment of the area.

"This is an economic issue for the county," said County Councilwoman Maureen Lamb, who favors locating the courthouse in the Parole core. "If it was put at this site, itwould pay for itself over and over again."

Charles Lamb -- no relation to Maureen -- said he and his associates have contacted property owners around the 30-year-old Parole Plaza shopping center and believe nearly five acres are available there.

Although state officials have said they only need eight to 10 acres for the courthouse, Lambsaid that is largely to provide parking. A four-level parking garagewith 450 parking spaces could be built on the core site, he said.

To make the site more attractive to state budget analysts, the garage could be built in a joint venture between the state, county and area businesses that would benefit, Lamb said.

Councilwoman Lamb saidshe believes the County Council would support the Parole core proposal.

Maryland District Court Chief Judge Robert F. Sweeney has saidthe state chose the Bestgate Road property because, at an estimated $110,000 per acre, the land would cost one-quarter what other sites would cost. Construction on the courthouse and the accompanying multiservice center, which will house six other state agencies, could beginas early as July 1993.

Bestgate Road residents, environmentalistsand Annapolis officials have objected to state plans to move the court from the Millard Tawes complex on Rowe Boulevard. The City Councilcomplained in a March 9 resolution that the state was contributing to the "economic demise" of the state's capital by moving the courthouse out of the city limits.

Residents and environmentalists fear the courthouse will attract commercial development to the 55-acre property, at the headwaters of Saltworks Creek, an area that is now limited to residential development.

"The Bestgate Road site seems a waste of potential, way out in the boonies," said Shep Tullier, chief of the comprehensive planning division of the county's Office of Planning and Zoning. "These kinds of projects don't come along that often. The closer to the heart of Parole, it could really be a catalyst for redevelopment."

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