Three-day hearing postponed until next month on research park at UMBC Catonsville campus

December 12, 1996|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

A showdown over the plan for a new, but much smaller than originally proposed, high-tech research park at the University of Maryland's Baltimore County campus in Catonsville must wait another month, after opponents won a preliminary procedural skirmish yesterday.

Thomas E. Dernoga, an attorney representing two neighbors opposed to the park, won a suspension of what was to have been the start of a three-day hearing until Jan. 9 because one of his clients didn't get proper notice.

Legal technicalities aside, the basic dispute remains unchanged.

"It's still the industrialization of old residential areas," said former County Councilwoman Berchie Lee Manley, as Charles G. Macgill, president of the Coalition for Preservation of Southwestern Baltimore County nodded in agreement. Both oppose the plan.

Opponents see the plan as a continuation of a 30-year-old battle to save their neighborhoods from industry, while county, state, and university officials see the park as a rare chance to add clean, high-paying jobs to the county's southwestern side.

On Tuesday, County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger told a Chamber of Commerce group in Towson, "I don't know of any other community in the country that wouldn't jump at the chance" to have a similar development.

Yet in southwestern Baltimore County, he said, the same "tax quacks" who oppose tax increases and the park want more expensive police protection and schoolrooms that new industry would help finance.

Though the arguments haven't changed, the current plan, crafted in the spring, is far less complex than the proposal made last year. That plan was withdrawn by UMBC Research Park Corp., which oversees the project.

Instead of a 12-building park on 93 acres south of the university's main campus near Interstate 95, the new plan calls for four buildings totaling 253,000 square feet, and parking for 748 vehicles on 36 acres of that land.

University officials have said the rest of the land, except for 5 acres, would not be developed. The 5 acres could be available for development eventually.

Manley wants a written guarantee from the university trustees that the rest of the 93 acres would not be developed -- something officials say is impossible because the land is owned by the state, not the university.

Despite the arguments and yesterday's procedural defeat, park advocates expect an easier time this year, because their new plan has vastly simplified the legal conditions they must meet.

Ellen Wiggins, UMBC Research Park Corp. director, said UMBC could go with a smaller park because the state has begun a similar facility at the former Lockheed-Martin complex nearby.

That 170,000-square-foot state complex, less than a mile from campus, is 80 percent occupied and is providing business incubator space that was to have been provided by the first research park building.

Whatever the outcome of next month's hearing, the case likely will go to the Board of Appeals and then to the courts.

Despite that, research park officials hope to begin work on roads and sewers by summer.

Pub Date: 12/12/96

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