North Point Government Center

Baltimore County is seeking bids for the possible sale of the North Point Government Center. Residents are concerned about the closure of the center, and also plans to reorganize local schools. (Kim Hairston, Baltimore Sun / January 15, 2013)

"These kids are going to get exposed to things that they wouldn't be exposed to at Eastwood," she said. "In this day and age, we have middle school kids that are pregnant, smoking, doing drugs. I think it's moronic to put a fourth-grader there."

A public hearing on the Eastwood closure is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Dundalk High School.

School officials say they don't yet know how much money the consolidations would save.

It is not the first time someone has proposed redeveloping the government center. Last year, developer John Vontran pitched the idea of razing the center to build big-box stores, then moving the government offices to a former Seagrams plant that he owns.

Many residents say they thought the idea was dead after Vontran's proposal was criticized at zoning hearings last year.

Still, some in the community think the government center has potential for successful commercial development. Amy Menzer, executive director of the Dundalk Renaissance Corp., said the group thinks the idea is worth considering.

"A lot is going to depend on what development is proposed, and how that affects who's currently there, and what opportunities the public has to be involved in the process of making decisions about it," she said, adding that the impact on existing stores also would have to be considered.

Many Dundalk residents are frustrated because the lack of retail options in the area forces them to shop elsewhere, Menzer said. In the past, county economic development officials have told the organization that a major problem is the size of lots on Merritt Boulevard — they are too shallow for big-box stores.

"The government center lot is a deeper lot, so it presents an opportunity in that regard," she said.

Councilman John Olszewski Sr., a Dundalk Democrat, said the community could end up with better facilities under the county plan. "The heating and air conditioning systems are all outdated," he said of the government center, a former school built in 1953.

Olszewski — who faced angry questions last month when residents packed a meeting room at the North Point Library to discuss the county proposal —- stressed that he would not support the plan unless it's guaranteed that all ballfields will be replaced, and that community programs get new homes.

The county's request for proposals requires any developer who buys the site to replace the recreation fields. Responses are due in April.

"At the end of the day, if the ballfields are taken away and not replaced nearby, if all the programs are not replaced and housed in a better place, then I will not support it," Olszewski said.

John Long of the environmental organization Clean Bread and Cheese Creek said the county isn't considering the environmental impact of new development on a stream that runs behind the government center. The county's bid request makes no mention of the stream, he said.

Long also noted the perception that the county responded to more affluent residents of Towson, who fought the county plan to move the fire station to Towson Manor Park.

"People of Dundalk are hard-working, for the most part blue-collar people," Long said. "And that doesn't mean that they deserve any less consideration."

alisonk@baltsun.com

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