Roland Park foundation considers purchase of country club parcel

Residents to discuss preservation plans

February 19, 2003|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

The Roland Park Community Foundation is considering the purchase of 18 acres of Baltimore Country Club land that has long been coveted as the last expanse of open space in the neighborhood.

A deal would be the culmination of a lengthy campaign by community officials who believe the parcel - which includes tennis courts and a popular sledding hill - should be protected.

David Koch, chairman of the foundation, said the neighborhood had long been interested in keeping the acres, considered "green space," free from commercial development. Roland Park officials are seeking permanent covenants on the land that would restrict such development.

"It's the last large remaining open space we have," Koch said.

Roland Park residents will meet at 7:30 p.m. Monday to discuss prospects for the land owned by the century-old club. If talks lead to a sale, the transaction could involve raising millions of dollars and forming a partnership with one or two of the area's private schools.

For years, Friends School of Baltimore and the Roland Park Country School have tried to acquire more land for athletic fields. Each school made a bid for the country club property in 1999. Friends School bid $5.1 million, but the sale was not approved by the required two-thirds of the club membership.

Both schools are interested in teaming up with the foundation, said David Tufaro, a foundation member who has been active in seeking a way to structure a land purchase.

Officials at Friends School could not be reached for comment. Officials at Roland Park Country School declined to comment on its bid and on its talks with the foundation. Country club officials did not return calls.

"If they're [club officials] motivated to sell, things could move very quickly," Tufaro said. He added, "The club has sought a letter of interest."

David Blumberg, president of the Roland Park Civic League, said he hopes circumstances are ripe for the community foundation to purchase the land, which overlooks Falls Road near Polytechnic Institute.

"The open space is enjoyed as a visual and recreational amenity for walking, sledding and touch football," Blumberg said. The foundation acts as the financial arm of the civic league.

If a proposed partnership with the two schools materializes, then the lawn tennis courts - the last from an earlier era - would be converted into playing fields, community officials said. The clay tennis courts would likely remain, they said.

Koch said a discussion among residents is needed to determine how to proceed.

He said the community foundation would not enter a partnership without an agreement on permanent covenants for the land.

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