Over the strong objections of one council member who bemoaned a waste of taxpayers' money, the Baltimore County Council approved last night the purchase of land in a crime-ridden Dundalk neighborhood slated for redevelopment.
The proposed land deal in the old Yorkway apartment complex is part of the administration's plan to buy and raze the complex and then sell it for new development.
In the most recent in a series of deals, the county offered $170,000 for less than two-tenths of an acre in Yorkway, using the higher of two independent appraisals. The property owner, Carolyn W. Heggie, countered with a price of $350,000, which the county accepted.
T. Bryan McIntire, the only council member who voted against the bill, expressed his vehement opposition.
"The county will bend down and pay it rather than stand up and do what's right," said McIntire, a north county Republican.
Paying such a high price for the property would set an "unfavorable precedent" because it would cause other owners to expect to receive more than their property's appraised value, he said. He advocated for condemning the building rather than paying the higher price.
Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, a Towson-Perry Hall Democrat, also said that he did not approve of spending so much for the property, but he said he would vote for the bill so as not to hamper the neighborhood's revitalization.
The parcel is one of the last remaining pieces the county plans to buy in the 8-acre neighborhood. The county is waiting to hear back from three other property owners who have received offers from the county.
Those owners should not expect to get more for their land than what other owners in Yorkway have received, said Donald I. Mohler, a spokesman for County Executive James T. Smith Jr.
"We've pretty much reached our limit," Mohler said. "We won't have taxpayers held hostage by greedy owners."
If the property owners hold out for higher prices, the county might consider alternative ways to acquire the land, Mohler said. Asked if the county would consider using public condemnation powers, Mohler said, "We will review all of our options."
Redeveloping the World War II-era Yorkway neighborhood has been a goal of the government for years, seen as a key to revitalization on the east side. The county plans to spend $17.2 million on the project.
The council also rejected a proposal by Gardina to ban warehouses used for membership retail and wholesale operations from areas zoned for light manufacturing.
Gardina said he opposes plans for a Costco on Taylor Avenue in the Hillendale area. Manufacturing zones should be reserved for "high-employment centers where we would draw in industry and jobs, as opposed to maximizing profit for a landowner," said Gardina. He was the lone councilman who voted in support of the bill.
Council Chairman Stephen G. Samuel Moxley said industrial sites in his district would be suitable for "membership" warehouses, and he did not want to pass legislation that could block warehouse operations from coming to those areas. Moxley, a Catonsville Democrat, also added that the council should be careful not to pass laws that target individual projects but could have unintended consequences in other areas of the county.
"You can't legislate all the time for these things," he said.