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Dundalk Unites Against Baltimore County Property Decisions

Dundalk residents are not happy with plans to sell the North Point Government Center and to close Eastwood Elementary Magnet School.

It was anything but quiet in the North Point Library meeting room Saturday morning.

More than 125 people packed the room to air their concerns about recent Baltimore County decisions to close Eastwood Elementary Magnet School and sell the North Point Government Center property at the corner of Merritt Boulevard and Wise Avenue.

Emotions ran high among residents who said they are tired of being ignored, tired of being lied to and tired of being told by outsiders what's best for their community.

And most of all, they said, they are tired of closed-door meetings in which major community decisions are made without community input.

"We're pretty tired of people not giving us a say, not asking our opinion and having other people tell us what's best for Dundalk," John Long, an organizer of the meeting, said. "And they don't live in Dundalk—most of them."

The meeting was called by Dundalk United, a new community coalition created to present a unified voice for community concerns regarding the property decisions.

Rich Foot, a parent of two Eastwood Elementary students; Debbie Staigerwald, the director of The Sky is the Limit community theater in residence at the government center; and Long, the founder of Clean Bread and Cheese Creek, coordinated the meeting.

"Who here loves Dundalk?" Long asked the crowd. He was answered in cheers and whoops.

"Who's tired of us being the back seat of Baltimore County?" he asked, and received a similar response.

At issue are the decisions to sell the government center, a former junior high school building that is now home to North Point Police Precinct 12, the community theater program, many indoor community sports and other recreation programs, elected officials' offices and other government organizations and services.

The site also includes outdoor athletic fields that are used by organized leagues and by children in the community, according to Eastfield-Stanbrook resident Patricia Paul.

The property also abuts the Lynch Cove stream, which is an environmental concern, according to Long.

Dundalk's annual Independence Day fireworks are launched from the center's campus, and crowds gather there to watch the production.

The story surfaced just about a month ago that Baltimore County officials planned to sell the property.

At the same time, parents of students at Norwood and Eastwood Elementary schools and Holabird Middle School were invited to a meeting to hear of county plans to close Eastwood and consolidate the three schools' populations at Norwood and Holabird, although under a new name.

Residents are concerned that they were brought in to the game way too late, and believe the decisions are done and they are now being given "lip service" in regard to now being allowed to voice their opinions.

The Request for Proposals that was issued by Baltimore County for the North Point property calls for an acceptable replacement recreation center of at least 21,000 square feet and fields comparable to the existing fields.

Baltimore County Councilman John Olszewski Sr., who came to the meeting about 40 minutes after it started, appeared angry and flustered when he addressed the crowd.

He said the community had misinformation regarding his stance on the topic,  and he wanted to "put to bed" those rumors. He accused a newspaper of taking some of his comments out of context.

Olszewski said the community would not be losing anything, and stands to come out ahead, with better facilities than it has now. Conditions are not good at the government center, which suffers from roof leaks and mold problems, he said.

The councilman said he would not support a bid that did not promise equal or better facilities than currently exist, and said he was in control of the decision.

"I'm not going to let them take anything away unless it's equal or better," Olszewski Sr. said of the RFP process. "I won't support it, period."

Staigerwald told the councilman that the community wants guarantees now that replacement facilities will be provided, and not sometime "down the road."

"And we want to be part of the process," she said.

"You will be," Olszewski said. "And you always have been."

At that point, the crowd erupted in jeers and a chorus of "No."

The crowd got vocal several times. A woman in the back of the room called out that "Kevin Kamenetz is not for us," and called him a "coward."

Another resident called out, "Do you trust these people?" referring to elected leaders, and the response was a resounding "No" from the crowd.

Olszewski said he "can't stress enough" that if the bids don't meet the needs of the community, he won't support the sale of the property.

"I have control over what happens to the government center," he said. "It has to come to the county council."

In what has long been known as "councilmanic courtesy," the six other councilmen would be supportive of Olszewski's stance on the RFP, with the understanding that individual councilmen know what's best for their respective districts, he said.

"We'll support whatever you decide as a community, and that's my pledge to you today," Olszewski said.

Tony Solesky January 14, 2013 at 01:31 AM
Except that it is inescapable that people vote for the party that seems to give them the best chance of getting their way with no concern for the overall social impact such selfish voting has brought on. It has long been Republicans promoting their specific interest at the expense of the greater good on one side and the Democratic voters on the other. Neither has a social conscious of a informed voter rather the punishment born of party line herding. Dundalk has suffered the most but still County wide just the same this is the result of long term looting (not steeling by strangers) brought on by political gains sought by voters just as much as the political people they voted for. In the last 4 election cycles how can anyone who has voted either party call themselves an informed voter?
Bruce Kahl January 14, 2013 at 01:44 AM
Earl, I do agree. Revitalization is what is needed. When we tear down, shut down, or leave blight to advance, there should be a plan. It's a plan the community supports because it has input. For 50 years district 6 has been in neutral. We have not been able to keep up with the rest of the county. Adding a new school every 50 years does not cut it. What is the growth plan? When will we prepare for the future? It's not too late. We can do it, if we work together.
Shell9 January 14, 2013 at 02:49 AM
The police station needs to stay in Dundalk..I heard that it is going to be housed in Eastwood Elementary. That isn't even in Dundalk. If Johnny O Sr. has this much pull with the county council then why didn't we get new roads instead or SLURRY? Why haven't we gotten a new police station yet? Why don't we have the proposed bike trail that was slated for Dundalk? Why are the seagrams building still standing? Why do we have a huge Rat problem that never seems to be treated? One would think that Mr. O Sr would want a make his community more productive, more functional!!! I would think that he would want a better community than when he grew up. He has been in office for many years along with his son and we have not seen any growth in our community. The Merritt Blvd Shopping center is still vacant, North Point Village property is still vacant, Many stores are still vacant in Dundalk Shopping Center and I could go on and on and on. I have written to Del. Mike Weir, Mr O Sr and Jr about curb cutouts for wheelchairs so our handicap can navigate Wise ave and Merritt Blvd.. I am still waiting. I urged people at election time to think about the last couple years..What has been done?? Nothing!!
Rich Foot January 14, 2013 at 12:22 PM
Mr. Spangler: I don't think you will find a single person in Dundalk who wants decay. However, the County Executive and our elected officials have a responsibility to obtain "the consent of the governed" with public hearings, due process, and adhere to equal protection of the laws. That is why this coalition of 50 odd shaped properties is called "the United States of America" where the Constitution affords citizens the right to redress of grievances. Redevelopment, new construction and better schools are central to the improvement of any region which has fallen on hard times. The process begins with public input, collaboration and a review process before decisions are made. Is there some aspect of that you believe is unreasonable for we the people to request from our government?
Buzz Beeler January 14, 2013 at 01:47 PM
Shell, the bike trail was cut because of money they just don't have. You are on target on everything else. Mike Weir will be at the meeting on the 23rd of this month and that would be a good time to ask him on the handicap issue. http://dundalk.patch.com/articles/county-turns-back-on-heritage-trail He said said he felt it unfair for Dundalk to have more Section 8 than other parts of the county but felt the federal government might make this an issue.
Nick January 14, 2013 at 02:31 PM
There is also an art center in many other surrounding counties. Baltimore county very behind the time on this issue of Arts, and arts education.
Nick January 14, 2013 at 02:35 PM
How do we know there will be more jobs in the area? How do we know this wont turn into another Bethlehem Steel? That was a loss of jobs overseen by these politicians.
Nick January 14, 2013 at 02:42 PM
That is correct, we already have plenty of vacant and decaying spots in Dundalk that are not being used. Why don't we revitalizer at east one of those empty spots before we tear down a building used year round by multiple programs.
Moving Forward January 14, 2013 at 03:34 PM
Shell, obviously you are unaware of what goes on in the community. If you left your neighborhood, you would know there are new roads, there have been rat exterminations going on and other efforts to help our communities. You want progress? Go talk to the 125 people bitching at the Library that are against any change in our community, because it may move their fire works location. Are you freakin kidding me? Do you want to know why those store fronts are empty? Because no one wants to deal with these community groups, who have nothing better to do than to sit back and bitch. They were against the rezoning of Seagrams. Really? So you want those buildings to stay? People need to get a clue, use a life line or call a friend, because this community takes three steps back, before it ever considers one step forward.
Tina January 14, 2013 at 05:03 PM
Reenie I Could Not Agree MORE I Live In Edgemere and the only time i see or here from Johnnie O My God Dont Do Nothing,,, is during Elections they dont care about no body but there pay raises the Downside is when he dies out we will be stuck with his good for nothing Son I Love My Home but as i age i may have to relocate to a coummity that actually cares about there people ...i will probly have to leave Baltimore ,until then i keep prayed Up
Tina January 14, 2013 at 05:09 PM
So So So Very Unfortionit But Well Put
Bob Seaby January 14, 2013 at 05:46 PM
I was raised in Dundalk and both my father and brother lived in Dundalk until their deaths. I have followed the ups and downs of Dundalk from afar, first from California and now Washington state. I attended St. Rita's and remember the Dundalk Shopping Center when it was a thriving collection of stores and shops. The loss of Bethlehem Steel, Western Electric and the GM plant were severe losses. Little if anything was done by those in power to mitigate these losses. The decision to make Dundalk a dumping ground for Baltimore City's section 8 housing residents was unfortunate. The decision to close St. Rita's School was equally unfortunate. I would agree with those who complain that too many decisions are being made by too many people who have little interest in what is good for Dundalk and its residents. I would also agree that if your elected reps are not representing the Dundalk community then voters should stop re-electing them. Dundalk will probably never be what it was in its glory days of the 50's and 60's but it need not be destroyed by neglect and planned misuse.
Laura Quintana January 14, 2013 at 08:09 PM
When a defamatory comment is made in print, it is libel, not slander.
Buzz Beeler January 14, 2013 at 08:17 PM
Matt, you may want to reconsider or temper some of those statements. Remember the Yorkway deal, $20 million of county or taxpayers money in exchange for a repair on a gazebo. Read page 18 on the sale agreement, the dreaded PUD. Many of these development and sale agreements have incentives in the form of tax breaks which make it a great deal for the developer and a burden on the taxpayers. Look at the proposed Fort Howard deal. The GAO is looking at that one. Look at the Whalen conviction and that might provide insight into the perspective of the development process. Overall the facts speak loudly of the current condition of Dundalk and you have to ask under whose tenure these conditions arose. http://www.city-data.com/poverty/poverty-Dundalk-Maryland.html
Laura Quintana January 14, 2013 at 08:31 PM
Just wondering, has anyone taken a drive down to National Harbor in Oxon Hill? It used to be an industrial wasteland and absolute eyesore on potentially gorgeous waterfront. Someone with a vision has absolutely revitalized the area. It has lovely office space, hotels, restaurants, upscale as well as fun, artsy shops, and rumour has it, an upscale casino is in the works. Dundalk is a lovely hidden jewel of a community peppered with lots of parks located around picture-esque waterways and green spaces. It's a great place to live if you're a boater, motor or sail, or even a kayak/canoe fan. The community is an easy commute to D.C. by train for work or tourism, and relatively close to Annapolis as well. As for Baltimore City, just down the road a couple of miles. So, why not use National Harbor as a model for all that Dundalk could be and so much more! For history buffs, Baltimore and Dundalk have it all, from Triangular Trade to the War of 1812 to the contributions of Bethlehem Steel. For commuters, Dundalk is a lovely place to live with plenty of options available for those commuting to and from D.C., Annapolis, and, of course, Baltimore City. And finally, as for the natural beauty of the community, water-oriented, water-access, and waterfront properties have long been sought-after by property owners as well as those who prefer a rental. Invest in this hidden jewel of a community. Together, we can polish this diamond.
Buzz Beeler January 15, 2013 at 01:27 PM
Moving Forward you seem to lose sight of the clear picture. It was the community who suffered at the hands of our leadership. I'll let the press tell the story: http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2010-03-14/news/bal-md.hermann14mar14_1_joseph-c-palczynski-bonnie-edelenbos-hostage-siege Look at the link I posted. That says a lot. We have the highest vacant store rate, three vacant shopping centers, lost industry high unemployment and poverty, but one thing we do have plenty of is Section 8. The meeting on the 23rd will tell us a lot about what is going on including an increase of over 500% in our food stamps vouchers. About that progress, it seems the GAO is not happy with the way our money is spent on the projects and again that is about leadership. Under whose reign has the decline occurred?
Bruce Kahl January 15, 2013 at 04:30 PM
Laura, you are a visionary. That is exactly, what i mean. I travel quite a bit and seen revitalization of worse areas. We need to get out of our funk. I work with teens that have some great ideas. For the record, i agree that old structures should go. What is the plan for our youth, community, create jobs.
Mike Feelings January 15, 2013 at 05:52 PM
Beeler, you always speak on the Patch, but never in a community meeting or in person. Why do hide behind your computer?
Buzz Beeler January 15, 2013 at 08:37 PM
Mr. Feelings nice name and your first comment I see. I spoke a lot when I ran for office. If you did your homework you would know that. I'll be at the meeting tonight with some very good questions for Mr. Sheppard on this issue. I deal only with facts as a blogger and must be objective. I also blog on the Baltimore Sun Talk Board. Next time do your homework and as you can see it is very, very important to get the facts straight. The difference is that when I write something it is based on facts rather than speculation which can get one in a great deal of trouble.
Buzz Beeler January 15, 2013 at 09:00 PM
Matt, the councilman is our elected official and has the power to impact zoning and proposals included any PUD they may write. That gazebo was the entire give back to the community for a price of about $1.4 million on a property the county spent $20 million for. That deal was solely based on the PUD as written. Yes there is something at Yorkway but at what cost to the taxpayers. The county will never recoup their investment in that development and that does not include the cost of police and fire services and anything else associated with taxpayer funds. Do the math for yourself and see what is at stake. Judging by the reception I saw at the library the community does not feel the same way in the sale of the center. As we saw in Towson the community concerns caused the administration to change it's mind. The problem with many of these issues is the tax breaks associated with these deals outstrip the benefits to the community except for the developers. Take a look at the links I post and read them. There is a lot of information there that speaks volumes. Here is on that reveals the truth and nothing but the truth. Take the time and read it carefully and you will get the picture. http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2011-07-25/explore/ph-ca-letter-philipsen-0629-20110623_1_pud-process-pud-rules-quality-development
Shell9 January 17, 2013 at 03:44 AM
Well I do get out in the community..As far as the RAT problem, I would most certainly say that it is still a huge problem for my community. In fact I have the $1600 bill for the repairs to my car. A rodent chewed through the wire harness. I see the rats running along side wise ave. As far as new roads, what a joke!!! The road in front of my house has a big hole. They put a huge heavy metal band aid over top of it. It has been there for months along with their stupid orange cone that I have to chase every time the wind blows. Yes I appreciate the fireworks. It is a tradition in our community. I would not mind a new building. I just STRONGLY think that our police station needs to stay in the center of our community. As far as the vacant store fronts, Most of the landlords who own them are slumlords and they charge a huge amount for rent. Rite Aid sat for years in Merritt Park shopping center and has had many issues with the building. I am not opposed to an over hall. I would love to have a thriving community, but Fix pressing problems that have been decaying our community for years. Show us that you are working for the citizens of Dundalk. AND I am serious...John O Sr and Jr and Mike Weir need to get off their lazy butts and get those cut outs for the curbs. That to me is far more of an injustice than tearing down buildings.
Shell9 January 17, 2013 at 03:57 AM
Sorry typo..Over Haul...Not over hall..lol
Jay Fitzgerald January 17, 2013 at 01:34 PM
'They' weren't against the rezoning...it was the number/TYPE of housing proposed. EVERYONE wanted it but NO one wanted more future slums built for section 8 and low end rentals they demanded to put in. By doing a percentage of low income housing the developer gets FEDERAL money. The developer also DEMANDED the entire strip of ball fields used by Dundalk High School on Sollers Point as well for an 'exchange' of less desirable property all the way down by Willow Spring...makes great sense and they were 'really looking out for our community'?
Laura Quintana January 17, 2013 at 05:00 PM
I just wanted quickly address the discussion of vacant commercial properties. I just started a jewelry design business that is "web" based. Due to its success on line and at various festivals around Dundalk, I am seriously thinking about having a storefront here in Dundalk. Here lies the problem...I have called to inquire about several vacant properties that have For Lease signs posted. So far, after about ten messages left for I believe seven properties, all to real estate firms, mind you, I have yet to get a return phone call giving me information. Also worth mentioning is the fact that all of these properties are listed on line. I have also left email inquiries with each property. Any ideas for why this may be?
Buzz Beeler January 17, 2013 at 07:02 PM
Discrimination of any type is against the law as per the situation you are describing. The real estate business is slow and no agent that I no of would not return a call from someone seeking to do business. If you believe there is a sinister reason for not being called back I would report it.
Laura Quintana January 17, 2013 at 09:57 PM
Mr. Beeler, I'm neither suggesting "sinister reasons" nor "discrimination" of any kind when it comes to not having answers to inquires on vacant properties for lease. I was actually wondering if there was a reason for this that someone may suggest. I would actually suspect this is more about an unprofessional approach to business than anything else. But I do agree that in a time when the real estate business is a bit slow it is bad business not to answer serious inquiries about a property.
Buzz Beeler January 17, 2013 at 11:46 PM
Laura, just some thoughts. There is no reason why they don't answer the phone especially if you contacted multiple firms. I would take a trip to the office if possible and see why they are not getting back to you.
Jay Fitzgerald January 18, 2013 at 01:25 PM
Actually Buzz's 'discrimination' comment may be right on target. Don't think for a minute realtors, bankers, business don't look at the phone exchange number or run a' quick check on your name to see whether or not they feel it's worth their time or not. When trying to secure a loan a few years ago, having perfect credit and borrowing on the home we had paid off many years prior for another property for which we had 50% down...we had one bank literally laugh at us and say 'there's NO home in Dundalk worth your perceived appraisal'...hung up on me!!!! FYI...our home appraised OVER what I thought it would and we easily got the loan elsewhere. Trying to get realtors to SHOW us properties was also a problem. Keep after your hunt for a good lease and NEGOTIATE!! Good luck!
Buzz Beeler January 18, 2013 at 04:22 PM
Jay that goes right to Laura's issue. I was not aware of that protocol involving banks and how it impacts real estate issues in this area. It seems thy are prejudging without looking at the facts.
Beacon Pointe May 25, 2013 at 03:46 AM
Johnny O. Should be ashamed for letting the community become run down, stay out of the seahorse n help the community's that have rat infestation. i believe there will be less votes for him if people realize he is not doing anything to help the community, its to benefit himself and other politicians.

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