Balto. Co. agrees to condemnation bill changes

Residents wanted law to expire, limit land sale

March 17, 2000|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

Yielding to mounting pressure from angry residents and business owners, Baltimore County officials agreed to key changes in a General Assembly bill that would grant the county new power to condemn land for economic development.

Officials agreed yesterday that condemnation power should expire in 2007 if the county had failed to buy the property or start legal action to take it.

Activists had asked for such a provision, but the county previously opposed it, saying the amendment would encourage delaying tactics by opponents of redevelopment.

The county has also agreed to a change to ensure that the land it acquires is used for redevelopment. County-acquired property could not be sold unless the developer agreed to invest at least as much money as the county spent obtaining it.

The changes, to be discussed when Baltimore County's House delegation considers the bill in Annapolis, were announced last night at a meeting with Randallstown business owners and residents affected by a redevelopment plan.

About 35 people attended the meetings, displaying flashes of the same anger that is sweeping through the Essex-Middle River neighborhoods where the county also wants to take property.

As on the county's east side, west-side business owners say the takeover plans penalize them for sticking it out in a struggling neighborhood.

"I'm just a poor, stupid guy who sells gasoline and fixes cars," said Gene Bremont, owner of Randallstown Amoco. "You have black-marked this business and you don't have an actual plan."

Frann Fischer said her family has owned land in Randallstown for about a century and blames county officials for creating problems by allowing too many strip malls in unchecked suburban sprawl.

"It's Baltimore County who made the mistakes then," she said. "How do we know the county won't be making mistakes again?"

The condemnation bill is the centerpiece of County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger's 2000 legislative package. Ruppersberger says the county needs the power to condemn land to boost the economy in parts of Essex, Middle River, Randallstown and Dundalk.

The east-side plan features a proposal for an upscale waterfront village.

By agreeing to the provision, the county is giving some ammunition to opponents. As Joe Tomarchio, co-owner of Mr. Tire, said last night: "All we have to do is fight this thing for seven years and it goes away."

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