Country club OKs sale to Keswick

City Council is next step for opponents of 17-acre deal

July 15, 2008|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,Sun Reporter

Baltimore Country Club members voted last night to sell 17 acres of unoccupied land in Roland Park to a care facility, a potential $12.5 million deal that has met strong opposition from the surrounding neighborhood.

The proposal still needs approval by the City Council, which would have to take up a request to rezone the property to accommodate the retirement community.

Phil Spevak, president of the Roland Park Civic League, said the organization is disappointed that club members supported the plan. He added that the outcome of the vote was expected and that the neighborhood already had begun lobbying political leaders.

"We're opposed to any change of zoning," Spevak said. "We're going to battle that. And we believe we will win. We're adamant in opposing zone changes needed to put the facility here. We've assembled lawyers, communication people, land developers. The community is going to fight a political and legal battle."

Although the vote tally was unknown, the president of BCC said in a statement that the proposal was overwhelmingly supported. Two-thirds of the 2,000 members were needed to approve the plan.

Since the deal to sell the land to Keswick Multi-Care Center was disclosed last month, Roland Park organizers have protested outside the club, collected hundreds of residents' signatures and held a door-to-door information campaign. About 400 residents tried to attend a meeting at St. David's Church two weeks ago, but there were not enough seats.

Roland Park residents are angered over the potential loss of green space, which they say has become a fixture in the community. They say a steep hill is used during the winter for sledding by neighborhood kids.

But Keswick officials say initial plans call for 7 acres to remain untouched, with 5 acres devoted to landscaped gardens and 5 acres of development.

The $195 million facility would have 225 independent-living units, 58 assisted-living units, 40 beds for residents in need of skilled nursing, would employ about 150 and include a 403-space underground parking garage.

No building is slated to exceed 31/2 stories.

"Approval from the Baltimore Country Club was just the first step in the process," Libby Bowerman, chief executive officer of Keswick, said in a statement last night.

"We now begin the process of creating a constructive, two-way communication with the community, illustrating how Keswick's proposed CCRC will preserve the integrity of the Roland Park area."

Construction is tentatively scheduled to begin in 2010. But winning over the City Council may prove to be difficult for BCC and Keswick officials.

Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton, who represents the district, pledged support for the community at a Fourth of July parade. And at the community meeting earlier this month, one state legislator told the packed house that the land needed to be preserved, and that the residents had the backing of all four state lawmakers for that area.

Spevak said neighborhood leaders want to work with Keswick to find another site and develop an alternative plan for BCC. The money generated from the land sale is expected to be used for extensive renovations to BCC's clubhouse.

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