Loyola University Maryland wants to purchase a residence in the Guilford area for use as an alumni center, but local residents must first agree to an exception to the deal that limits the school's expansion in the neighborhood.
The house at 208 E. Cold Spring Lane is in the tiny Kernewood community, next door to the Loyola president's house. It is owned by Michael Harrison, a former general director of the now-defunct Baltimore Opera Company.
The North Baltimore Neighborhood Coalition would have to sign off on the university expansion.
The five-bedroom, four-bath, Colonial-style house features more than one acre of gardens. It is listed at $850,000. It was listed in September at $1.2 million, taken off the market and then relisted this spring.
"Loyola is working with the neighborhoods to hopefully negotiate an exception to the agreement that limits our ability to expand our property ownership in the area so we can purchase a house that is currently for sale," said Courtney Jolley, a spokeswoman for the university. "We're continuing to work toward an agreement."
"We have an agreement that was negotiated between Loyola and Kernewood," said Cindy Leahy, president of the coalition of 12 neighborhoods that includes Kernewood. "They have an agreement on the table."
Denise Whiting, president of the Kernewood Association, said lawyers are researching whether the agreement conflicts with existing original covenants in the community.
"The Kernewood Association is dotting their i's and crossing their t's," Whiting said.
The coalition must sign off on the agreement between Kernewood and Loyola, and members are voting by e-mail and phone because the coalition doesn't have a meeting scheduled in July, said Leahy, who is also president of the Keswick Improvement Association and an aide to Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke.
Keswick has voted in favor of the proposal, Leahy said. Other members of the coalition are Blythewood; Evergreen; Guilford; Homeland; Radnor-Winston; Roland Park; Tuscany- Canterbury; Wyndhurst and the subdivisions of Roland Springs and Villages at Homeland East and West.
Leahy said she doesn't see any major opposition to granting Loyola the amendment, because the coalition doesn't consider an alumni house as a potential source of loud noise, parking problems or other issues that first led to the 1985 agreement that limits Loyola's expansion.
That agreement, which has been updated, was spurred by complaints from residents about students making too much noise and parking on residential streets.
But although Loyola's plan to buy the house appears to have the coalition's blessing, several neighborhoods are using the request for an amendment to cut side deals with the university to do work such as landscaping on Cold Spring and snow removal on the streets of Kernewood.
"We don't have a direct problem with their acquisition of the property," said Thomas Hobbs, president of the Guilford Association. But the association is withholding support for the amendment because community leaders are angry that Loyola won't landscape the west side of Cold Spring Lane and put in a sidewalk as part of a $12 million project to expand the Donnelly Science Building at Cold Spring and Charles Street.
Loyola agreed to landscape along the east side of Cold Spring Lane, but says there is no money in its budget for landscaping on the west side, near Loyola's dormitories.
The Guilford Association board is concerned that Loyola has money to buy the house, but not to do "that little bit of landscaping," Hobbs said. "We think there's something wrong with the priorities that are being expressed" by the university.
The association and Loyola have agreed to meet in mid-July, Hobbs said, adding that the Guilford Association hopes to "leverage" its support of Loyola buying the house in exchange for Loyola agreeing to do the additional landscaping.
Hobbs conceded that Loyola officials don't need a unanimous coalition vote of support for buying the house. But, he said, "I'm sure they don't want a dissenting community. We think we can resolve the issues, but it will take more time."
Harrison's real estate agent, Rick Milam of Steen Properties, declined to comment on Loyola's plan to buy the house except to say, "At this point, we do not have a ratified contract."
Harrison, who often hosted parties in the three-story, 6,000-square-foot house when he was general director of the opera company, is currently unemployed and is thinking of moving out of state.
"I love the house," he said. "We had some great events here."