Domino in the valley

Meadowood: Protecting key parcel, providing parkland justifies Baltimore County's condemnation.

June 21, 1999

THE DESIRE TO build a park, not racism, is behind Baltimore County's decision to condemn and purchase 95 acres of farmland at Greenspring Valley and Falls roads. Condemnation may not have been the preferred method to acquire the land, but the county had no other option.

By securing this parcel, the county will add much-needed parkland and provide a buffer against development in the protected valleys west of Falls Road.

Clarence Elder, who heads the company that owns the land, contends the county is condemning it because he is black. Race is not the issue. The decision is consistent with the county's policy to keep Green Spring Valley green while allowing some development on the ridges around the valley and on the east side of Falls Road. Thus, while St. Timothy's School could propose residences or Har Sinai a synagogue and school on the ridge, development would not be allowed on this particular parcel. And while Greenspring Station and other intense commercial uses could be built on the east side of Falls Road, the west side, where Mr. Elder's property is located, was to be remain undeveloped.

As Circuit Court Judge Marshall A. Levin found, racism had nothing to do with the county's decision. Mr. Elder took a risk. He bought the Meadowood property, thinking it could be rezoned and its value would rocket. The county is desperate for recreation land and has resorted to condemnation to obtain it. It is willing to pay Mr. Elder the court-appraised value of $1.5 million. He is contesting that. A hearing will be held this summer. In the meantime, Mr. Elder will receive the appraised price.

Although it may be viewed as less crucial than roads, schools, libraries or fire stations, land for recreation is a vital public need.

By keeping Meadowood open and free of intense development, county government helps preserve precious open space.

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