Board's vote gets college closer to athletic fields goal

Loyola can buy city land despite residents' protests

December 18, 2003|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

The city's financial oversight committee approved yesterday the sale of 50 acres north of Television Hill to Loyola College, allowing the school to build an athletic complex.

The five-member Board of Estimates voted 4-1 to sell the land, which is partially landfill and partially woods, to the school for $348,698.

Mayor Martin O'Malley, City Council President Sheila Dixon, City Solicitor Thurman W. Zollicoffer Jr. and Public Works Director George L. Winfield voted for the proposal, and Comptroller Joan M. Pratt voted against it after listening to neighborhood complaints about traffic, noise and the destruction of woodlands.

FOR THE RECORD - An article yesterday about the city's proposed sale of 50 acres of land to Loyola College incorrectly reported the vote of City Council President Sheila Dixon. Dixon voted against the sale. The Board of Estimates approved the deal by a 3-2 vote. The Sun regrets the error.

"Loyola is a valuable institution to the city and I look forward to them continuing to grow and continuing to contribute to the greatest city in America," O'Malley said.

Residents in the surrounding Woodberry community complained that the project would require cutting down many trees loved by neighbors.

While the project would create eight to 10 jobs, neighbors said that was not enough to justify selling public land and increasing traffic and noise in Woodberry.

"I see little if any economic benefit for the city in this," said Tracy Brown of Concerned Citizens of Woodberry. "It will disrupt our community. We are next to decaying neighborhoods, a highway and [television] towers. ... What amenities do we have, besides these woods?"

Loyola College officials argued that the city would benefit by turning a dump into athletic fields and allowing the school to use its older sports fields farther east on Cold Spring Lane for academic buildings.

"Loyola is a national institution of higher learning, and we are playing soccer and lacrosse at the highest level, Division I ... but we have little space," said Terrence Sawyer, special assistant to the college president.

The land Loyola is purchasing is divided into two parcels southwest of Cold Spring Lane and the Jones Falls Expressway: a 19-acre site at what is called the Woodberry Quarry, and a 31-acre site at the now-closed Cold Spring Lane Landfill.

For more than four years, Loyola officials have proposed building a $40 million athletic complex with a 6,000-seat stadium, athletic fields, offices, roads and parking lots. The college also is expected to designate a 26-acre conservation easement to preserve trees.

After a long battle with the community, the neighborhood reached an agreement with Loyola in July last year not to sue the college. That accord requires the school to preserve woodland, turn off all lights at athletic fields at 10 p.m., prohibit alcohol, limit the number of outdoor concerts to two a year, and not build a road into surrounding neighborhoods.

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