Ports' paradox

Condemnation: What's good for Prince George's County isn't good enough for Baltimore County.

September 08, 2000

DEL. JAMES F. PORTS owes Baltimore County residents an explanation. Why did he vote in 1996 for a Prince George's County redevelopment bill with extraordinary condemnation powers, when he maintains that S.B. 509 is fatally flawed because it gives his county "unprecedented" powers to acquire land for redevelopment?

When County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger raised this issue at the Aug. 30 debate, Mr. Ports rebutted that the Prince George's County bill was much different.

He is right. It is different. Mr. Ports says S.B. 509 is a "hammer." But if that's true, then the Prince George's County law is a compressed-air jackhammer.

Mr. Ports apparently was not concerned that Prince George's County has delegated development power to an appointive development authority. Nor was he troubled by the authority's power to issue bonds in the county's name.

Even more surprising, Mr. Ports did not question Prince George's County's ability to condemn "areas that are not subject to such deteriorated or deteriorating conditions ... but which are in need of development or redevelopment for the public benefit."

Baltimore County's redevelopment law is more limited than any other Maryland jurisdiction. By limiting condemnation powers to specific properties, the county now has the state's most circumscribed redevelopment statute.

Even Taneytown (population 3,695) in Carroll County has broader redevelopment power than Baltimore County (population 690,143). The town can acquire "land of every kind" within the town limits for redevelopment purposes.

So how do these sweeping redevelopment laws square with your assertions that S.B. 509 seeks unprecedented condemnation powers, Mr. Ports?

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