Baltimore County sets auction date for farm

Merryland's 160 acres must go for $1 million for sale to be approved

May 12, 1999|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Over the objections of neighbors, Baltimore County officials plan to auction the 160-acre Merryland horse farm in Baldwin next month.

Robert J. Barrett, a special assistant to County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger, said the site has been appraised for $1 million. Atlantic Auctions of Hunt Valley has been hired to sell the property, which would be too costly to convert to a park, he said.

If the property doesn't sell for $1 million at auction, the county will not approve the sale, he said.

The auction is set for 10 a.m. June 11 at the farm on Bottom Road in Long Green Valley.

The decision to sell the farm upset neighbors, who say the site was intended to be used as a park and equestrian center when it was donated to the county six years ago by a wealthy New York businessman.

"I don't think the county ever really gave Merryland a chance," said Charlotte Pine, president of the Long Green Valley Association.

Richard W. McQuaid, head of the North County Coalition, an umbrella group of 18 community organizations, said the group is considering whether to seek a court order to block the auction.

"Right now, we're looking at what our options are," McQuaid said.

Former County Executive Roger B. Hayden planned to turn the farm into an equestrian center in 1993 when he accepted the tract -- appraised at $4 million at the time -- as a gift from New York real estate magnate Seymour Cohn.

The property, which has since been used as a thoroughbred training facility, includes a restored 100-year-old farmhouse, a cottage, tenant house, several barns and a five-eighths-mile track.

With Ruppersberger's election in 1994, the county began wrestling with the question of how to use the parcel. County officials decided last year to sell it and use the proceeds to protect farmland in Long Green Valley.

The development rights will be donated to the Maryland Environmental Trust and the Long Green Valley Conservancy to ensure that Merryland will remain a farm, said Michael H. Davis, a Ruppersberger spokesman.

"The idea is to preserve it as open space and to use the money from the sale to preserve other farms in that area" Davis said.

Davis said the farm doesn't fit the county's park needs because it is not easily accessible and lies in an area targeted for farmland preservation.

"It's a beautiful piece of property, but the question becomes, Is it something the county should own, something the county has a use for?" he said. "If we did make improvements and turn it into a park, neighbors would be concerned about all the traffic we'd have out there."

County Councilman Joseph Bartenfelder, a Fullerton Democrat, said yesterday he hopes the auction can be prevented and an alternative use for the site can be found.

He said that since January, he has been talking with horse enthusiasts and breeders who might be interested in operating the farm as a public facility for horse-related activities. Even with the auction scheduled for next month, Bartenfelder said he will continue to work with groups to try to find an alternative use for the land.

"I've been told the auction could be canceled right up until the day of the auction if someone comes up with a plan that will work for the site," he said. "I'm hoping there's a plan out there that'll work."

County officials have said they would consider turning the site into an equestrian park -- but only in the unlikely event someone offers an acceptable plan and $750,000 for repairs.

The farm, once one of the grandest thoroughbred breeding and training facilities in the county, would need major repairs for the county to keep it, Davis said.

Pub Date: 5/12/99

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