Sports complex is put on hold in Baltimore Co.

November 26, 1993|By Ed Brandt | Ed Brandt,Staff Writer

Baltimore County government has stopped activities related to its effort to create an athletic complex in the western part of the county after angry neighbors denounced the proposal.

The county and the state, in a joint venture, have been negotiating to buy two farms totaling 137.7 acres north of Deer Park Road and Berrymans Lane. The farms are west of Interstate 795 and about midway between heavily populated Owings Mills and Reisterstown.

The county wanted to build four lighted ball fields and create an area for picnics, hiking, and other recreation on 19 acres it would purchase. The state sought to create a buffer to protect and enhance its Soldiers Delight environmental area to the south.

"We're not going to force a park on them," said Wayne Harman, director of county Recreation and Parks. "If, after a cooling down period, the neighbors want to invite us back, we'll come and talk about it some more."

About 200 residents of the Deer Park area attended a public meeting Tuesday night to protest the proposed park. Mr. Harman said that it was a courtesy meeting and that the county was not obligated to meet with the neighbors.

He said the county would end its negotiations for the property and any environmental and traffic studies related to the proposed park.

"I regret that all the good things a park can bring are perceived as just the opposite," he said yesterday.

Early in the meeting, Michael McCastle, who lives on the edge of the proposed park, summed up the feelings of those who came to protest.

"We moved out here to get away from congestion and crime, and now you're bringing it to us," he said. "And we all know it will degrade our property values."

Studies have shown that property values increase when a park is created nearby and that crime decreases, Mr. Harman said.

Jay Simonds, who lives at Deer Park and Berrymans, said the county should put the recreational area "where it's needed" -- in Owings Mills and Reisterstown -- instead of in a rural area well removed from the two population centers.

"Several ball fields have been lost to development there," he said.

Mr. Harman said land for recreational use had become too expensive in those areas and that the two farms were the closest and cheapest properties available.

"The next best chance for athletic fields in this area is when more schools are built sometime in the future," he said.

Several speakers said the park would add to traffic congestion on the narrow, heavily traveled roads.

Mr. Harman said the farms, if sold for development, would support 28 to 35 homes and would cause more congestion than the 56 to 80 cars a day county studies say a park would bring into the area.

"Park traffic would be staggered and would come during non-rush-hour times," he said.

Other speakers objected to the proposed lighting, which must have community approval, and the nighttime activities it would bring.

"I regret the anguish this has caused," Mr. Harman said. "We want to be good neighbors. We think there is a need here and that the park will increase property values. But the county won't be forcing a park on you."

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