Balto. Co. plans to raze apartments Houses may replace decrepit building to reduce congestion

November 04, 1995|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Liz Atwood and Patrick Gilbert contributed to this article.

Baltimore County officials plan to demolish another eastern Baltimore County apartment complex in their aggressive attack on pockets of rental housing that have fallen into disrepair and have contributed to mounting crime and other social problems.

The long-range plan to raze Chesapeake Village Apartments on Wilson Point in Middle River is part of an ambitious strategy aimed at relieving congestion in the county's older neighborhoods by lowering population density, or "down zoning."

County leaders hope to encourage construction of single-family housing on the east side, which is overloaded with aging apartment and townhouse complexes -- including some that have become havens for teen gangs and crack cocaine dealers.

Meanwhile, on the county's west end, residents want to prevent developers and builders from developing new homes on vacant land.

Nearly 3,000 acres are involved in the proposals to block overdevelopment and pump new life into older suburban neighborhoods.

"The older neighborhoods have been overzoned, especially on vacant parcels, creating way too much density," said P. David Fields, county community conservation program director. That, he said, overloads the neighborhoods' social and physical infrastructure.

Mr. Fields said that over the last several comprehensive rezoning periods, as county residents became more aware of how zoning can affect their quality of life, more requests to lower density have been filed by community organizations.

"Our vision is to tear down Chesapeake Village and replace the apartments with single-family housing," Mary Emerich, a county official managing the Essex-Middle River Community Conservation Plan, said yesterday.

Chesapeake Village, which has a 50 percent occupancy rate in its 252 units, sits by scenic Dark Head Creek near Martin State Airport. Rents range from $372 a month for a one-bedroom apartment to $545 for a three-bedroom apartment by the water.

Chesapeake is the second apartment complex targeted for razing.

This year, County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III said that all or part of the Riverdale Village apartments will be demolished. A community of single-family housing or a park will replace the apartments, which have been plagued by drug dealers, prostitution and other crime.

"Since Mr. Ruppersberger has put as much emphasis on community conservation, we definitely feel like we have more support from Towson," said Melissa Grimes-Guy, zoning committee chairwoman of the Old Catonsville Neighborhood Association on the county's west end.

"We're a neighborhood of older homes, 70 to 80 years old, and we are interested in applying to downzone now to preserve the character of our community and limit the density in our community," she said.

The group wants to change the zoning density of 131 acres south of Edmondson Avenue to permit only two houses per acre. Such a zoning classification will discourage apartment houses and building on undeveloped land, Ms. Grimes-Guy said.

The association is concerned that area schools already are crowded and hopes that lowering the density will ease congestion. The new classification also would be compatible with some surrounding neighborhoods.

While confirming the planned razing of the Chesapeake Village complex, Ms. Emerich said the area does not share a crime problem with Riverdale, nearly 3 miles away. Instead, the buildings have become dilapidated and transient tenants make it difficult to collect rents and improve broken screens, faded exterior walls and other signs of shabbiness.

If the parties can reach agreement, razing could begin within a TTC year, Ms. Emerich said. Plans are under way to relocate residents, mostly low-income occupants receiving government subsidies.

Currently, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is preparing a foreclosure on the mortgage held by the family of the late owner, William R. Karll. According to the most recent figures available, the mortgage is delinquent nearly $5 million.

Laura Karll, the late owner's widow, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Yesterday at the complex, children drifted home from school and residents walked their dogs or sat on screened-in porches catching the last of the mild weather. All had heard rumors of "something happening" at Chesapeake Village but did not know about demolition plans.

"I known nothing," said Lois Anders, on-site property manager for 15 years at Chesapeake Village. "I just know we've been hearing stuff for so long. This area's been hit hard by unemployment, people are moving out and they ain't moving in."

Stacey Beggs, 24, a resident of Chesapeake since she was a child, said, "I'm getting ready to move out. Thankfully it's not as bad as other places because I can come out at night and not be worried."

George Weiss, who moved out of the complex four years ago, returned three months ago.

"It's really gone down," Mr. Weiss, 54, said. "Some of the people are nice but the transients are the problem. They don't pay. And you see what you get."

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