Police eye new site for crime lab

Suburban Club parcel ruled out in favor of nearby location

April 13, 1999|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

Rebuffed by Pikesville residents who didn't want a new crime lab in their neighborhood, Maryland State Police have pinpointed another Pikesville site behind a subway station.

The state's Office of Real Estate is seeking appraisals on a 10-acre property west of Reisterstown Road and bordered by Dreher Avenue and Milford Mill Road. The site, known as the Phillips property, is about 10 blocks from the current crime lab and two blocks from the site state police had hoped to buy for the facility.

Although state and county officials said they're considering other properties, the Phillips property has emerged as the leader.

"This is the site we are currently pursuing," said state police spokesman Capt. Greg Shipley. "But we are not ruling the others out."

He said police have ruled out a 6-acre parcel on Slade Avenue owned by the Suburban Club of Baltimore County.

Neighbors had fought locating the crime lab there, saying they did not want a commercial building in their neighborhood. The Suburban Club also balked at the proposal, contending the state's offer for the land was too low.

Yesterday, one of the leading opponents of the Slade Avenue site said he was satisfied with the new site.

"It's fine with us," said Lester Ellin, president of the 11 Slade Avenue Co-op, which represents residents in a high-rise condominium in the area.

The General Assembly has approved $2 million to acquire property for the crime lab. That money is not tied to a specific site.

State police say the current 24,000-square-foot lab at Sudbrook Lane and Reisterstown Road is too small to meet the increased need for forensic testing.

Built in 1985 to house 36 employees, the lab employs 52 technicians, and more are being hired to keep up with demands for DNA testing, ballistics and other work. State police say they want a one-story, 54,000-square-foot building that could be expanded.

Shipley said the Phillips property has several houses on it, but most of the land is unimproved. He said the state might not need to purchase the entire tract, which is substantially larger than the other parcels it has considered.

Appraisals should be completed within a month, and an offer to purchase the land could be made a few weeks later.

Although Carroll County officials had hoped that the lab would be located in Sykesville, Gov. Parris N. Glendening said keeping the facility in Pikesville would meet the requirements of his Smart Growth initiative, which aims to curtail suburban sprawl.

The crime lab's location became part of a squabble between Baltimore and Carroll counties. The governor also has scrapped plans to build a $41 million police training facility in Sykesville.

Among the latest sites to be considered for the training facility is Spring Grove Hospital Center, a state psychiatric institution in Catonsville. Tentative plans for the training center include academic buildings, dormitories, a cafeteria, gymnasium and indoor firing range, all of which would require renovation of existing buildings and some construction.

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