Proposed Randallstown roller rink draws opposition

October 04, 2001|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Call it the Roller Derby in Randallstown. A group of 40 community organizations around the Liberty Road corridor is opposing a Baltimore County woman's plans to open a skating rink on Liberty Road.

The organizations, known as the Liberty Road Community Council, met last week and voted to oppose the skating rink proposed by Karen Donaldson.

Donaldson, a 34-year-old resident of the Milford Mill neighborhood, works with special-needs children at Kennedy Krieger Institute and has said she wants to provide a recreational outlet for Randallstown teen-agers.

The two sites she is considering are a former furniture store at Liberty Road and Brenbrook Drive, and the former County Market in the 8600 block of Liberty Road near Old Court Road.

The skating rinks closest to the sites under consideration are in Towson and Baltimore, she said.

"There are none in [the Randallstown] area," Donaldson said. "And the area is steadily growing."

In addition to skating, Donaldson said, she would hold dances for teens at the rink. She and her father, Charles Wilson, a former Atlanta real estate agent, are taking their plan to banks seeking a loan to finance the venture.

Community leaders, fearing an increase in trash, loitering and other problems, say they don't want a rink. In opposing the idea, they point to teen dance clubs in other communities that have had problems.

"Once they're out of her building, it's not her problem anymore," said Marcia Klaff, council secretary. "It's ours."

For a decade, residents and business owners near the Skateland roller rink at 8855 Orchard Tree Lane in Towson have complained about unruly crowds that vandalize the area after closing time.

The Towson rink's operators responded by changing their operating hours, installing a metal detector to scan for weapons and hiring off-duty police officers to guard the door and patrol the parking lot.

Last year, 16 patrons of an area bar were injured when a sport utility vehicle fleeing a gunfight in the Skateland parking lot crashed through the front of Firehouse Tavern at 2800 E. Joppa Road.

At the meeting with community leaders last week, Donaldson promised to have security inside and outside the building to help alleviate neighborhood concerns.

Zoning permits Donaldson to open the rink, but she would need a change in the occupancy permits, which she will seek despite the anti-rink sentiment.

"That's not going to stop me," Donaldson said of her opponents. "I was just going to them as a courtesy."

Klaff said part of the community council's opposition stems from Donaldson's failure to bring an organized business plan to the meeting.

Others said plan or not, they intend to urge strong opposition among council members, whose groups represent about 8,000 people.

Ella White Campbell, president of the Liberty-Randallstown Coalition, promised to lead boycotts of all stores in any shopping center that accepts the rink as a tenant.

Campbell, the council's executive director, said she is calling landlords of area shopping centers to alert them of the boycott threat.

"We will boycott every store," Campbell said. "If they sign a lease, they put all of their stores in jeopardy."

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