Ex-site of Kingsley Park may be development test

Bills would enable revitalization of tract through new process


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April 18, 2005|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

The county-owned former site of the Kingsley Park apartments will provide the first test of County Executive James T. Smith Jr.'s signature plan for the revitalization of older neighborhoods if the County Council gives the go-ahead over the next few weeks.

Two bills, one scheduled for a vote tonight, the other for introduction, would make the Middle River property eligible to take part in the recently approved planning process. The process allows developers of selected projects in selected neighborhoods to bypass the traditional development route in favor of one marked by intense community involvement.

If both bills are approved by the council, the county is expected to use legislation passed in December to develop a plan for the site this spring before putting the property and the plan up for public sale, said Mary L. Harvey, director of the county's Office of Community Conservation.

Even if the bills fail, the county will use a key component of the legislation, she said. The county has scheduled a series of community-driven planning meetings, known as a "charrette," to develop a concept for the site beginning May 31.

But without the legislation, participants will be locked into the property's current high-density residential zoning.

When the county bought the property from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development last year, it agreed to include elderly and affordable units in any new development plan. The legislation would also allow charrette participants to explore other uses, including medical offices, Harvey said.

"We'd be able to be more flexible," she said.

County officials said the legislation is intended for private developers and does not provide for situations involving county-owned land. A bill expected to be introduced tonight would allow for what Harvey called Kingsley Park's "atypical situation," adding a provision that would accommodate the site.

A separate bill scheduled for a vote tonight would include the 18-acre site in a "renaissance opportunity area." Two other areas in Dundalk also are on the council agenda. Only land within designated areas is eligible to use the new legislation.

Five such areas - two each in Pikesville and the Loch Raven area, and one in Towson - have been approved since January. The councilmen who represent those areas - Kevin Kamenetz and Vincent J. Gardina, both Democrats - said they haven't been approached by developers interested in using the process.

Councilman John Olszewski Sr., a Dundalk Democrat whose district includes Kingsley Park, said it makes sense for the county to use its own legislation to draw up plans for the site.

"That way the community has a stake in what goes on there," he said.

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