Progress seen in relocation of residents

Board of Estimates expected to OK purchase of 5 Wagner's Point homes

May 19, 1999|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

The city Board of Estimates today is expected to approve the purchase of five properties in Wagner's Point in another step toward relocating 270 residents who fear ill health because of neighborhood chemical plants.

The properties on the board's agenda today brings to about a dozen the number of homes the city has approved for purchase in the tiny neighborhood in southernmost Baltimore. With the city negotiating to buy about 20 more, about a third of the 92 properties will have been acquired when all the deals are complete.

Sales prices range from $14,000 to $58,000, and each property owner also will receive up to $22,500 in relocation costs, according to Anthony J. Ambridge, the city's real estate officer.

"It's going pretty well," Ambridge said. "We've met with almost everybody. To date, I don't know of anyone who disagreed with the purchase price, which would require us to go to court."

The city officially condemned the Wagner's Point community with legislation that took effect April 1. The properties were condemned as a way for the city to acquire the land. The condemnation also allowed the city to give property owners relocation money. Additional funds are expected from the federal government and chemical companies in the area.

Residents of Wagner's Point have been eager to leave the community because of foul odors and a series of cancer deaths they fear are connected to chemical manufacturers and oil tank farms that surround the area.

Larry E. Sturgill, who is looking to move to a small West Virginia farm, is set to have one of his three Wagner's Point properties approved for purchase today so he can go to settlement on his new home.

Sturgill said the city's $36,000 purchase price for his property in the 3800 block of Leo St. is reasonable. But he has been frustrated with the length of time it has taken to close the deal on that site and the two additional properties he needs the city to purchase so he can buy his new home.

"I got one extension" on the purchase of the property in West Virginia, Sturgill said. "I don't know if I can get another one. I know [the city is] trying to meet a deadline. I'm trying to meet a deadline in West Virginia. But all things considered, they've treated me fair so far."

Some residents, such as Richard Rotosky, say they dislike the prices, but do not have money to hire lawyers and contest the city's appraisals. Rotosky, who also lives in the 3800 block of Leo St., is angry that he will receive $32,000 for his three-bedroom house, while some neighbors are getting $50,000 for two bedrooms.

In his kitchen recently, with his dog in his hands, his cat at his feet and two of his birds sleeping a few feet away, Rotosky showed off copies of the appraisals of his home, which he obtained from the city under Freedom of Information Act requests. The appraisals, he noted, include errors about the location of rooms and the nature of the home's heating system.

"I'm very frustrated," he said. "But what can you do about it?"

Sun staff writer Joe Mathews contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 5/19/99

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