Strapped for money, Baltimore has asked the Baltimore County Planning Board to rezone for commercial use 30 of the 53 wooded acres of the city-owned Cloisters Children's Museum property in the county's Brooklandville area.
But community associations in the councilmanic 2nd District of Baltimore County strongly oppose the city's request, says David A. Green, community planner for the district. He says he has received letters denouncing the plan from the Ruxton-Riderwood-Lake Roland Area Improvement Association and the Falls Road Scenic Group.
The castle-style mansion on the hill, completed in 1930, was bequeathed to the city by Sumner A. and G. Dudrea Parker of Baltimore. Its upkeep is funded by the Mayor's Advisory Committee on Art and Culture, donations, fees, admissions and grants, according to Beatrice E. Taylor, museum director.
"The museum needs a new water well. It's running dry," she says. "With an older historic site, when we do anything, we run across things we have to repair. For example, we put in a new bathroom and, because of the way the plumbing had been put in, they had to go into the ceiling of another room."
The county location is currently zoned for resource conservation, which restricts development to homes on lots of one acre or more. The reclassification that the city wants would allow a variety of commercial uses, including shops, convenience stores and low-rise office buildings.
The city's attorney, William M. Hesson Jr., says Baltimore wants commercial zoning at the top of the hill, near the museum.
The steep slopes would retain their conservation zone
designation, he says. The ideas for its use, by sale or lease, do include a small office park that could be used as a corporate retreat, he adds.
"The city is looking for a way to increase the value of the property, to generate some income to offset the costs" of overseeing the museum, he says. "It's a valuable resource, an important asset to the community."
Baltimore County's planning staff has recommended against the city's request.
The city's request will be on the agenda at a public hearing before the county's Planning Board tonight. The petition is one of 45 rezoning applications in the 2nd District, part of a countywide process called comprehensive rezoning that occurs every four years in each councilmanic district. After the Planning Board makes a recommendation on each request in July, the petitions move to the County Council, which makes a final decision on each in October.