Community comes out for Vanguard PUD meeting
Wednesday, 16 April 2014 14:12

Former Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks Director Bob Staab questions Vanguard’s Len Weinberg about his company’s plan.
photo by Ben Boehl

Tensions run high at Dundalk High School

by Ben Boehl

    Over 200 people came out to Dundalk High School for a post-submission community meeting about the future of the North Point Government Center.
    The meeting was hosted by Vanguard Commercial Development Inc., which was selected by Baltimore County as the developers of the site.
    Vanguard co-founder Len Weinberg led the meeting and took questions and feedback. Weinberg did not set a time limit on the interaction, which resulted in many long rants.
    Emotions ran high at times, such as when The Sky is the Limit theater program director Debbie Staigerwald confronted West Inverness resident  Cary Quintana. Staigerwald said she was upset because she believed that Quintana had aired a private conservation between the two at the public meeting.
    The room appeared mostly in opposition to the selling of the Government Center. When Edgemere resident Russell Donnelly asked all those opposed to the plan to stand, there appeared to be only a handful of people sitting down.
    Many of the audience members either wanted to see changes to the Vanguard proposed plan or wanted Vanguard to walk away from the project altogether, as they are still opposed to the county’s decision to sell the Government Center.
    Former state legislator and Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks Director Bob Staab, a leading voice  in the Dundalk United opposition group, told The Eagle in March that he was not happy with the plan and argued at the meeting that there will not be enough park land for the recreation programs under Vanguard’s development proposal.
    Staab also said that some of the parkland Vanguard has mapped out is part of the Grange Elementary School fields.
    “They are giving us something that they don’t have,” Staab said
    The amphitheater, which Vanguard has proposed on the Government Center site, also drew opposition.
    Brian Weir, a member of the Recreation and Parks board of directors and a candidate for County Council, said the amphitheater needs to be removed from the plan.
    “The amphitheater is not needed. We don’t need another place where the homeless can sleep, a place where kids can set off stink bombs and a place with graffiti,” Weir said. “We can’t get the graffiti off the rail bridge now.”
    Former Baltimore County recreation and parks director John Weber agreed with Weir’s statement that an amphitheater is not needed in the community and told Weinberg that he would like to see some changes to the plan.
    “We don’t want our park sold, but we don’t want to lose what we have,” Webber said.
    “Maybe we need to scale back. We need more field space. There is not enough field space under this plan.”
    Weinberg responded that Vanguard is not taking park space away and said he understands how important this is to the community.
    “We have kids, and the last thing we want to do is to take away opportunity. The goal of this plan is to enhance these fields”
    Local real estate agent Myia Biggs asked Weinberg if he really believed that Vanguard could get established stores into the area.
    She noted the many vacant storefronts in the area and wondered if the economic status in Dundalk was strong enough to support higher-end retail.
    Weinberg said he does not know why there are vacant stores in  some local shopping centers. He pointed out that he and his group own German Hill Center — which houses Giant Food, Big Lots and SunTrust Bank — as well as The Centre at Golden Ring at the old Golden Ring Mall location, and have had success at both locations.
    Weinberg said he believes the same will be seen at the Government Center site, asserting that, while he did not want to reveal any names — to the dismay of the crowd — he has been in contact with national restaurant chains.
    “We have had talks with five restaurant chains that you are very familiar with,” Weinberg said.
    After the meeting, North Point Village Community Association president and Dundalk United member Dave Patro said he was upset with the handling of the Government Center sale, but said the time to complain is over and it is now time to work with Vanguard to get the best outcome for the community.
    “I wish it never had happened, but you can’t fix what is broke,” Patro said.
    “It is time to negotiate. We have to work with the developer to ensure we get what we want.”
    Staab told The Eagle that  he thought the meeting was productive from the community’s standpoint, as he said Vanguard’s flaws were on display. 
    “I still feel as though the sale of North Point is a bad deal for the citizens of the community as well as Baltimore County and that the truth will prevail,” Staab said. 
    “At least now, if the sale does go through, I feel that Vanguard’s feet will be held to the fire and the community will get what they were promised.”
    The Dundalk Renaissance Corp. (DRC) has taken a public position in favor of the sale, and some of its members were at the meeting.
    DRC executive director Amy Menzer said the DRC’s goal is to improve economic growth and enhance Dundalk for future generations, and that is why they support the Vanguard project.
    Menzer acknowledged that the DRC has taken criticism from opposition groups such as Dundalk United, but stated that the DRC has the right to voice an opinion on the Vanguard project.
    She added that she believes that the whole community is not against the project, as Dundalk United has implied.
    “The DRC has been accused of many things by Dundalk United and people from that organization.  The DRC would like to point out that Dundalk United does not represent all of Dundalk, just as they accuse the DRC of not representing all of Dundalk,” Menzer said.
    “From feedback we have received, there are several people and groups within our community that support the project moving forward and the development it will bring. 
    “Some of those people have remained silent because of the harsh tactics and fear of reprisal from Dundalk United.”