Md., Balto. Co. decide against farm

But boat ramp, saving house are possibilities

February 24, 2010|By Timothy B. Wheeler | Baltimore Sun reporter

State and local officials have backed away from buying a waterfront farm in eastern Baltimore County from a developer, saying they lack funding to acquire the entire 160-acre tract.

Instead, officials say they still hope to buy two small pieces of the farm, one for a public boat ramp on Back River and the other to save a deteriorating historic house that witnessed the Battle of North Point in the War of 1812.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Baltimore County had been talking with developer Mark C. Sapperstein about buying Bauer Farm, a partly wooded waterfront tract on which Sapperstein had been planning to build 144 townhouses.

"Given our limited funding at this time, our declining revenue and our 'Greenprint' goals," said Darlene Pisani, DNR's communications director, "it's not a priority and where we need to go with the little bit of money that we have."

The farm's ecological value was deemed "mediocre" at best under a scoring system the state uses to determine what lands to buy for parks and nature preserves. And most of the property transfer tax revenues dedicated to buying "open space" have been shifted to help cover the state's budget gap, though the department still can borrow up to $55 million for that purpose using revenue bonds.

Baltimore County still hopes to buy six to eight acres of the farm for a public boat ramp, said Robert J. Barrett, director of recreation and parks, and the state has offered to provide funds to help construct the ramp and parking lot. The price for that parcel remains to be negotiated, but Barrett said the county had expected it to cost about $1.6 million. Even that deal might depend on whether lawmakers tap the funds in the budget for local governments to buy parkland, Barrett said.

Meanwhile, the state is looking to provide some funds to shore up the Shaw-Bauer house, a two-story stuccoed brick dwelling on the farm that is believed to have been built around 1800. It is one of the few structures left on the peninsula that was standing when the British army landed there in 1814 in an unsuccessful attempt to capture Baltimore while the British navy bombarded Fort McHenry.

Sapperstein had said last year that he was willing to sell the entire farm so he could concentrate on other development projects, including McHenry Row at Locust Point in the city. On Tuesday, he said he was prepared to go ahead with developing the remainder of the Bauer tract, but he did not know how many homes he would be able to build there if the county does acquire some land for a boat ramp.

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