Keswick planners face a skeptical Roland Park

October 15, 2008|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,brent.jones@baltsun.com

Hundreds of Roland Park residents packed a community meeting last night to hear Keswick Multi-Care representatives promote their plans to build a facility for the elderly, but few were persuaded by the company's arguments.

Keswick administrators and project architects told the crowd at Roland Park Elementary School that the $195 million proposal would not increase traffic in the neighborhood and would leave undeveloped most of the 17 acres being acquired for the project. Baltimore Country Club is planning to sell the land to Keswick for $12.5 million.

Initial plans call for 5 acres to be developed, 5 acres to be devoted to landscaped gardens and 7 acres to remain untouched, Keswick officials said. One architect told the crowd that most of the trees would be preserved, and that all the buildings would be on the same scale as the houses in the neighborhood.

Keswick's presentation was largely dismissed by audience members. Afterward, Baltimore City Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton, who represents the community, again said she would not sponsor legislation that is needed to complete the deal, drawing an ovation from the audience.

"My colleagues are 100 percent respectful of my decision, and that includes the president of the City Council," Middleton said.

The council needs to reclassify the property to accommodate the retirement community, which would have 225 independent-living units, 58 assisted-living units and 40 skilled-nursing beds. Construction would begin in 2010.

Addressing the audience, Baltimore Country Club President John L. Daue said last night that Keswick's plan would preserve the most green space of various proposals for the land.

He said the club could sell the property to a developer, who could use the land to build 60 single-family homes. "We don't plan on threatening anyone," Daue said. "But we do have other alternatives."

Members of the Roland Park Civic League later unveiled its proposal to buy the property and possibly turn the area into community space, with swimming pools, fields and a playground.

David F. Tufaro, a Roland Park resident, told the audience that residents could raise $1.25 million and $3 million, with the rest of the money coming from land trusts and public funds.

"Sell it to us," Tufaro said. "We're prepared to pay the fair market value."

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