What price urban renewal?

Profiting from eminent domain

May 25, 2000|By Diane DeCarlo

INDEED, neighborhood revitalization is progress. I support it. However, I strongly oppose Senate Bill 509 as an appropriate tool to achieve neighborhood revitalization.

I, and thousands of other Baltimore Countians, support the repeal of SB 509 through the referendum process. We see SB 509 as a dangerous precedent and little more than a brazen land grab, made possible by expanding the county's condemnation powers in the Essex-Middle River area, Dundalk and Randallstown.

County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger and I disagree. He believes it is fair for government to disrupt the lives of some in order to raise the quality of life for many. I believe that each individual is important; therefore, the lives of the few are just as important as lives of many.

While Mr. Ruppersberger stresses that the lives of relatively few homeowners and business owners will be disrupted, he practically ignores the disruption of hundreds of people who rent homes and apartments, some of whom have rented properties in the Essex-Middle River area for 36 years.

SB 509 establishes that Baltimore County government can join in cahoots with land speculators and developers to turn a profit, and the lives of a few people who get in the way of that deal matter little.

Mr. Ruppersberger cites the seven-year sunset limit on SB 509's condemnation powers as a safeguard. It should be recalled that Mr. Ruppersberger's forces in Annapolis fought against adoption of both the two-year and the four-year sunset provisions.

A lot of neighborhood condemnation can take place over seven years. As I see it, the seven-year sunset provision is a meaningless safeguard.

SB 509 was sprung on the people without warning, explanation or public meetings. Despite their tears and pleading, SB 509 was rammed through the legis-lature by the county administration.

Now, Mr. Ruppersberger is calling for debates and public forums, and he has made a great show of signing the referendum petition. Only those who still believe in the tooth fairy would not be skeptical about his motives. Frankly, I see this late-date effort to reach out to Baltimore countians as a desperate strategy to put a good face on a colossal political blunder.

Mr. Ruppersberger is well aware that the people do not see SB 509 as helping them. If anything, the passage of SB 509 has left people all over the county wondering if their neighborhoods will be the next ones condemned for private development.

Government can exercise its condemnation powers, but only for the public good, such as the building of roads, schools and parkland. Under SB 509, government can use its condemnation powers for private profit. The county administration can dress it up and trot it out any way it wants, but the fact remains that SB 509 is nothing but a land grab, motivated by greed.

I am hopeful it will be defeated in the November referendum.

Diane DeCarlo is a state delegate from Baltimore and Harford counties.

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