Talk It Over

Our view: Roland Park residents, care provider should confer

July 06, 2008

Roland Park residents are distressed by the prospect that their neighbor, the Baltimore Country Club, may sell 17 prime acres of open space in the community to a company that wants to build an assisted-living facility on the property. If the sale goes through, the property would have to be rezoned and the battle would shift as city officials try to balance the benefits of preserving the city's green spaces against the long-term need for more housing tailored to the elderly as the population ages.

Those goals need not be contradictory if community residents and the Keswick Multi-Care Center, which has offered $12.5 million for the property, are willing to work together. But so far, it appears neither side has found an effective way of talking to one another and both have missed opportunities to avoid a confrontation that now seems based as much on emotion as on the issues.

Residents say development would change the character of the neighborhood and deprive them of open space they've enjoyed for decades. They say BCC should have kept them informed and given them a chance to buy the property. BCC says it tried to do both, but that's seriously in question.

Given that BCC members will vote on the sale in less than two weeks, it's a waste of time focusing on who's to blame for past mistakes. Both sides would do better to seek common ground now than entrust their fates to a zoning battle -- some politicians are already siding with residents -- or the uncertain hope of state buyout money. Many residents recall sledding on the hill above Falls Road. Can't Keswick reserve a place for that tradition among the seven acres to be preserved? The dispute doesn't need to be a zero-sum game. Open space and housing for the elderly both benefit the city. What's needed is to turn down the volume so the two sides can hear each other. Then they might be able to find their way out of their respective corners.

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