County to buy 241 acres for Owings Mills park $5.3 million price had been called excessive

December 03, 1996|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Ending a months-long controversy, the Baltimore County Council voted last night to buy a 241-acre tract west of Owings Mills in a $5.3 million deal intended to give the fast-growing planned community its first park.

The purchase was approved unanimously despite opposition two months ago to the purchase price, which several members felt was excessive. But Councilman T. Bryan McIntire, an Owings Mills Republican, said after the vote that the purchase "gives Owings Mills a recreation area it deserves and should have had long ago."

Although no specific plans for the land exist, Ruppersberger administration officials have said that about 80 acres likely will be used for regional recreation, with either outdoor ball fields or an .. indoor facility.

A golf course also could be built on the rest of the site, which originally had been zoned for a 382-home golf course residential community straddling Deer Park Road on the north side of Lyons Mill Road.

But the deal -- which had been the subject of grumbling from some County Council members about price -- won't be completed unless the state Board of Public Works approves $750,000 in state open space money for the project. That is expected to occur next month, county officials say.

The county is planning to use $3.3 million in state funds that had been provided for another planned land purchase, which was abandoned for the chance to buy more land for the same money. The county will supply the remainder from local bond funds.

County recreation officials have $2.5 million in the capital budget that can be used to help build roads, parking lots and for basic utilities on the land. The Deer Park proposal had stalled in September after some County Council members raised questions about the price and local residents voiced concern about the shift in development plans.

"We have to pay what it's worth," Michael H. Davis, spokesman for the Ruppersberger administration said, referring to four appraisals of the land obtained by the county that set its value between $5.2 million and $5.67 million.

The vote will help the county escape a trap of its own making.

Land in Owings Mills shot up in value after 5,000 acres was rezoned in 1984 for new development under a larger growth management plan.

As a result, the county couldn't afford to buy land for amenities in the area. Though the golf course community first planned for Deer Park would have helped, it would have left no space for indoor or outdoor recreation space for soccer, lacrosse or other games.

In addition to providing recreational space in the Owings Mills area, the transaction approved last night should net the county about $250,000 more in real estate taxes than had been expected.

That's because of a last-minute change in the arrangements with developers Henry LeBrun and Chris Pippen, who had planned the golf community on the land. They will use their option to buy the land from the nine owners and then immediately resell it to the county -- paying real estate taxes in the process.

Pub Date: 12/03/96

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