County residents upset at condemnation plan again criticize officials

Essex-Middle River land targeted for tourist area

March 24, 2000|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

Another evening of anger and emotion over plans to condemn private property in Baltimore County took place at Kenwood High School last night, where about 75 residents shouted down county officials trying to sell the plan.

"Ruppersberger is a liar," yelled Middle River retiree Frank Schwarzman, referring to County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger. "This whole system is corrupt."

Schwarzman, who lives in the Hawthorne neighborhood of Middle River, said the plan would force him to move from a home he has lived in and invested in for 25 years.

Beverly Dickerson, of the 900 block Bennett Road in Essex, joined Schwarzman in doubting the county's plan to spare certain properties.

"It's all been very hush-hush, secret," Dickerson said. "Then all of a sudden they're in a rush to have this bill passed. I don't believe what we hear. We don't think the revitalization plan is going to stop where they say it is."

Earlier yesterday, dozens of opponents packed a legislative hearing room in Annapolis to testify against the measure.

Last night's meeting follows one also held at Kenwood High on March 8, when several hundred property owners shouted down county officials for promoting the sweeping plan that would condemn houses, apartments and businesses so the properties could be sold or transferred to developers.

Through the legislation, officials want to convert more than 400 acres in Essex-Middle River into a waterfront tourist destination. Other apartments and businesses will be condemned for demolition in Dundalk and Randallstown under the bill.

While not directly affected by the legislation, the Villages of Tall Trees apartment complex, home to about 2,000 residents, will be taken over by a separate action of eminent domain, a plan announced last year and endorsed by the state.

Tall Trees will be converted to park land as part of the waterfront village concept announced by Ruppersberger.

Robert Hannon, head of the county office of Economic Development, and other officials said the 39 property owners of Tall Trees are in negotiations with the county which will eventually attempt to offer fair market value for the 105 buildings.

In Annapolis, several people involved in the issue said it was likely the House Commerce and Government Matters Committee would approve the legislation, despite increased lobbying by opponents.

"I think we're going to make it," said Del. John S. Arnick, a Democrat from Dundalk.

Key members of the committee said they view the issue as a Baltimore County matter. Under long-standing General Assembly tradition, the legislature approves such local measures if a majority of lawmakers from the affected jurisdiction support them.

"People should be reminded it's a local bill," said Del. Maggie L. McIntosh, a Democrat who represents parts of Baltimore and Baltimore County. "It has the strong support in the delegations in both the House and Senate."

"Of course I say it's about local courtesy," said Del. John F. Wood Jr., a St. Mary's Democrat and chairman of the House committee considering the bill. He said a vote on the bill would not come before next week.

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