Dundalkians react to Government Center proposals
Wednesday, 01 May 2013 12:48

Dundalk United starting two petition drives

by Ben Boehl

    After the public emergence of two bidders for the North Point Government Center site, the opposition groups Dundalk United and Save the North Point Government Center have started two petition drives to stop the sale of the Government Center property.
    Debbie Staigerwald, director of the Sky is the Limit theatre program, which is housed at the Government Center, sent out an e-mail to supporters to encourage them to help with the petitions.
    “Here are two petitions. One says building and park, one just says park,” Staigerwald wrote. “Use what you like, but let’s start collecting signatures. I have bumper stickers now too.”
    The December announcement of the planned sale of the Government Center site, coupled with plans to close Eastwood Elementary Magnet School and to relocate North Point Police Precinct 12 to the Eastwood site, has generated significant negative reaction locally, prompting the formation of the two opposition groups.
    Dave Patro, who is president of the North Point Village Community Association, said he has joined with Dundalk United.

“We the people of Dundalk and Baltimore County will be heard, may it be here or in Mays Chapel,” Patro said, referring to a similar controversy in the Mays Chapel area of the county, where residents have also vocally opposed county land sale plans.
    “We demand that our local officials take notice, that if our voices are not heard and our needs respected, they will hear us loudly come Election Day.”
    Patro encourages other community association leaders to join the group and sign the petition because he feels the community has to stand together in order to stop the county for taking away other properties.
    “The goal is to get signatures to show force to let the politicians know that we are not playing,” Patro said. “I’m asking you all to join. If you have a favorite spot, it might not be safe.”
    The county announced in April that Vanguard Commercial Development, Inc. and Sollers Investors, LLC, were the two bidders for the property, but did not provide any details about the groups’ plans.
    However; Vanguard and Sollers did provide The Eagle with some details of their plans.
    The Sollers group announced last week that they would propose moving all of the Baltimore County recreation programs currently located at the Government Center to the property of the former Seagram’s location, owned by John Vontran, who is part of the Sollers Investors group.
    Under the plan, a new 21,000-square-foot recreation center, which is required under the terms of Baltimore County’s Request for Proposal (RFP) for the Government Center site, would be built on the Seagram’s site, along with two 150-by-300-foot multi-purpose fields.
    The Government Center site would become home to a retail center and possibly a ‘big box’ store.
    “We saw this coming the minute they announced they were selling the land,” said a statement on the Dundalk United Facebook page.
    Only one commenter on The Dundalk Eagle’s Facebook page appeared to have no objection to the plan.
    “Sounds good to me,” the commenter wrote. She did not return messages  asking her to elaborate on her position.
    The rest of the comments were decidedly not as friendly.
    “The government center should stay put. After all Town Center’s are all the Planning rage in retro (i.e. stuff that works) contemporary circles ... to bring communities together and develop a sense of belonging. Lots of communities would give their right arm for a centralized Town Center like at the corner of Holabird and Wise,” another commenter wrote on The Eagle’s Facebook page [sic all].
    “Leave it to Dundalk to go against the grain for personal real estate holder gain, decentralize and fragment communities and advance the Dundalk slide to a ghetto.”
    Before the sale plan was announced, there was talk last year of a so-called “swap” — a proposal by Vontran to build a new police station, government offices and recreation center along with senior housing units on the the former Seagram’s property; in return, he proposed to take possession of the Government Center site. Vontran said at the time it was not an “official proposal” but an “idea” for his development team that never materialized.
    The current Sollers  Investors  proposal  is similar to that plan, and some of the critics have noticed.
     “I bet they put that Target there like they wanted to (do) in the first place. Never matters what the people want,” another commenter added to The Eagle’s Facebook page.
    Len Weinberg of Van-
guard provided some details in early April about his company’s plan, which includes a community center, an amphitheater, four athletic fields and a recreation center at the North Point site, with retail within the remaining space. Weinberg promised to give The Eagle an updated version of his plan after he met with community leaders.
    Vanguard’s plans have not been met with much positive reaction from the Save the North Point Government Center group.
    “Great! They want to give us an outdoor theatre. What are we going to do with that?” said an apparently skeptical statement on the group’s page.