Loyola, residents reach agreement

Woodberry group won't fight field plans

College makes concessions

July 12, 2002|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Loyola College and a Woodberry group have negotiated an end to a three-year conflict over Loyola's plans for developing 70 acres of woodlands in North Baltimore, with Loyola making concessions and the opponents agreeing not to mount any legal challenges.

Though the City Council narrowly approved Loyola's proposal to develop three athletic fields last month, there were lingering issues that residents and college officials felt they should try to address on their own.

The agreement reached Tuesday night bars opponents from challenging the City Council legislation in court or any other venue. Loyola, for its part, agreed to permanently preserve 29 forested acres; turn off all lights at the athletic fields at 10 p.m.; limit the number of outdoor concerts in the 6,000-seat grandstands to two a year; and not build a road into the surrounding neighborhoods.

A prohibition on alcohol was written into the City Council bill. An earlier provision that would have allowed Loyola to eventually build an indoor hockey and basketball arena and several tennis courts was dropped.

"Loyola stayed at the table, though we were not legally required to," said Terrence M. Sawyer, a Loyola official and lawyer. "Most noteworthy, more than the details, is that the college and the community will work together in good faith" in regularly scheduled forums.

John C. Murphy, the lawyer who represented the Woodberry Planning Committee, said the most important feature of the agreement was the preservation of 29 acres of woods.

Murphy also noted that the agreement provides a framework for community relations by specifying that the college must meet monthly with community residents to discuss issues during construction.

Most of the 70-acre parcel is city-owned and abuts West Cold Spring Lane near the Jones Falls Expressway. Prodded by Mayor Martin O'Malley, a proponent of the Loyola project, city officials were eager to sell to Loyola, but community opposition arose from the first meeting between college officials and residents in early 1999.

Environmental concerns were at the forefront of objections because the site covers a buried city landfill. Residents also sought to preserve an urban forest. A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report on potential hazards is expected to be completed next month. Until then, no date will be set for the city to sell and hand over the land, though a price of about $7,000 an acre has been set.

Not all the activists were willing to make peace. Area resident Jan Danforth decided to resign from the Woodberry Planning Committee this week rather than be party to the agreement.

Jim Emberger, a 26-year Park Hill/Edgegreen resident, said agreeing to the deal was a difficult decision that involved soul-searching for several residents. "We signed this very reluctantly. There's a finite amount of green space in the city. Nobody's knocking down buildings and planting forests," he said.

Councilwoman Lois Garey, who was chairwoman of a March hearing that went past midnight on the fiercely debated issue, said yesterday: "I think it's very worthwhile that a compromise has been worked out. No one got everything they wanted.

"This requires Loyola to have a relationship with the community that's not adversarial. And that's in their best interest, if they ever want to build the indoor arena," Garey said.

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