Council OKs purchase of parkland

Fight renewed against LNG facility with vote on coastal ban

February 06, 2007|By Josh Mitchell | Josh Mitchell,sun reporter

A plan for Baltimore County to buy parkland next to a high school on the east side won approval of the County Council last night.

The measure, approved unanimously, authorizes the county administration to pay $900,000 to a developer for about 20 acres near Sparrows Point High School in Edgemere.

County officials say the property, some of which is wetlands, would be used for parks and recreation, perhaps by a high school science magnet program.

"At a time when we're losing precious green space, I think this is an opportunity where we can acquire green space and parkland near the water," said Councilman John A. Olszewski Sr., a Dundalk Democrat whose district includes the land.

The deal had prompted questions from Councilman T. Bryan McIntire, the panel's only Republican, about the price the county is paying for the land. McIntire asked why the county agreed to a price higher than that given by two independent appraisers. The price is 17 percent more than the highest appraisal of $770,000.

County officials say a parcel's market value is often higher than its appraised value. Mark C. Sapperstein, who is selling the land to the county, said he expects to lose money on the deal because he had planned to build houses there. But he said he is content to sell land that would be used by children.

Sapperstein and his companies have contributed to the political campaigns of some council members and County Executive James T. Smith Jr. Officials said his contributions had no bearing on the deal.

The council also unanimously approved a ban on liquefied natural gas facilities in environmentally sensitive coastal areas.

The legislation is the county's second attempt to block AES Corp.'s plans to build an LNG plant in Sparrows Point. An attempt to block the plant through zoning laws was struck down by a federal judge last month. The federal government ultimately approves or denies the location of LNG facilities.

David A.C. Carroll, the county's environmental chief, told the council last night that the new legislation puts liquefied natural gas facilities on a list of banned uses in coastal areas that includes landfills and hazardous waste collection.

County Attorney John E. Beverungen told the council that the legislation could withstand a legal challenge.

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