Long Green Valley residents seek hearing to block auction of farm

Baltimore County plans to sell Merryland on Friday

June 09, 1999|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

Long Green Valley residents will ask a Baltimore County Circuit Court judge today for a hearing to block the auction of the Merryland horse farm scheduled for Friday.

The petitioners -- the Long Green Valley Association, its president, Charlotte Pine, and tenants who live on the farm -- said the auction would violate the county's agreement to use the property for a park.

In papers filed in court yesterday, Pine, who lives less than a half-mile away, said the sale of the land would deprive her of recreational facilities and reduce her property value. Nicholaus and Anna Zurkan, who live on the land, said the sale would violate the county's promise to allow them to stay on the land for life.

Michael H. Davis, a spokesman for County Executive C. A. Ruppersberger, said yesterday that the county is confident that it has the right to sell the land and that the auction will proceed as scheduled.

New York businessman Seymour Cohn donated the property to the county in 1993 in exchange for a $4 million tax break. Roger B. Hayden, then the county executive, announced plans to use the property for an equestrian center.

However, Ruppersberger and his staff concluded the land doesn't meet the county's park needs and decided this year to sell the property at auction.

"Mr. Cohn conveyed the property without any restrictions," Davis said.

Merryland Farm, founded in 1915, was one of the county's premier thoroughbred breeding and training farms in its heyday when it was owned by horse trainer Danny Shea.

Although the farm has been open for public events, it is leased as a horse-training facility to private operators. The 160 acres in Long Green Valley include a restored 100-year-old farmhouse, a cottage, tenant house, several barns and a five-eighths-mile track. County officials were undecided yesterday whether a retired racehorse that the county owns would be included in the sale.

The county has said it expects the auction to bring about $1 million, which will be used to preserve other farm properties. The development rights on the farm will be donated to the Maryland Environmental Trust before settlement so the property cannot be developed, county officials said.

"We already are looking at what land we can buy with the proceeds," Davis said.

Unless a judge blocks the sale, the auction is set for 10 a.m. Friday at the farm.

Pub Date: 6/09/99

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