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Upcoming Hearing Could Be 'Last Hope' For Lavender Lot

The state Board of Public Works is expected to decide next week whether or not to sell a state-owned sliver of land near the Lavender Avenue public parking lot.

An upcoming state Board of Public Works hearing could be the last, best hope to save Parkville's Lavender Avenue parking lot, according to one local legislator.

Del. John Cluster, who represents the Parkville area, said that legislators have been working to stop the sale of the Lavender Avenue parking lot for close to two years but have met with "brick walls" at every turn.

The state Board of Public Works is expected to make a decision regarding the sale of a state-owned piece of land that surrounds Parkville's Lavender Avenue public parking lot at a hearing next week.

Cluster said he thinks that the upcoming hearing could be the last hope for saving the lot, which was sold to a developer by the Baltimore County Revenue Authority over a year ago amidst protests from the community.

Most recently, he wrote a letter to the three-member Board of Public Works asking them to charge the full amount for the sale of the two-acre sliver of land dubbed 'the bus loop'.

The —substantially more than the $14,000 the quasi-public agency expected to pay, but only about a quarter of the highest independent appraisal of the land.

"I've actually written a letter asking them not to sell [the property]," Cluster said. "[If they do sell it] we will try to get the board to get the full appraisal amount. The state coffers are in deep need of money—why wouldn't they try to get the full value for it unless it's one of those backroom deals; which I certainly hope it's not."

Ruth Baisden, president of the Greater Parkville Community Council, agrees with Cluster that the state should try to get fair market value for the property.

"I think the community has kind of been ignored throughout this process—we're wondering how we provide parking and get new businesses to open on Harford Road," Baisden said. "We would still prefer to see [the Lavender Avenue lot] remain a parking lot and a place where we can hold events that promote the business district."

The Parkville Main Street Committee, an offshoot of the Greater Parkville Community Council, has used the lot to host a community tree lighting and dog walk over the past year.

"It's been up in the air for I guess three years now — I'm not sure if people who poentially wanted to invest in this area didn't because they heard about the lot. If the state is going to sell it, they should sell it for fair market price. I'm not sure why they would sell if for less than even the lowest appraised value."

The authority's sale of the parking lot to Towson-based DMS Development, which plans to build a Walgreen's on the site, is contingent upon the acquisition of the 'bus loop' property.

Cluster—along with Del. Eric Bromwell, Del. Joe Boteler and Sen. Kathy Klausmeier—tried to introduce legislation that would have blocked the Revenue Authority's sale of the lot this year.

"We tried every piece of legislation but we were met with a brick wall—the County Executive [Kevin Kamenetz] came out strong against us," Cluster said, referring to two bills he introduced in the House.

One of those bills would have forced the Revenue Authority to bring decisions about the sale of property before the Baltimore County Council; another, Cluster said, was intended to revamp the Revenue Authority's bid process.

"Out last resort is the bus loop," Cluster said. "First we tried not to get them to sell it at all, but it's excess property and they have to sell it. If they're going to, I hope to make sure they get full value for it."

And if the Revenue Authority decides not to buy the property at the full appraisal value? Cluster said that could be the last hope for Parkville's parking.

"If we stop [the board from selling the bus loop], we can stop the sale of the lot."

State Sen. Kathy Klausmeier could not be immediately reached for comment.

Patch Baltimore County political reporter Bryan P. Sears contributed to this report.

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