Nay vote sparks park bill skirmish

March 31, 2000|By LAURA ERNDE

ANNAPOLIS - Legislation to create a state battlefield at South Mountain may be in trouble because of votes cast by Washington County lawmakers Thursday.

Del. Christopher B. Shank and Del. Louise V. Snodgrass opposed a bill to allow Baltimore County to condemn property for an upscale waterfront redevelopment.

The Commerce and Government Matters Committee voted 13 to 8 Thursday to send the bill to the floor of the House of Delegates. It has already received Senate approval.

Sen. Michael J. Collins, D-Baltimore/Harford, argued that Shank and Snodgrass should support the bill because of the General Assembly's practice of extending local courtesy in local issues. The Baltimore County Delegation supported the legislation by a vote of 30 to 6.


Collins called it insincere of them to expect local courtesy when his committee votes on the South Mountain bill.

"It's a very simple game. It's their decision," Collins said before the vote.

The South Mountain bill passed the House two weeks ago, but the Senate Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee has not yet scheduled it for a hearing.

Committee Chairman Sen. Clarence Blount, D-Baltimore City, said he is not holding the bill and will probably schedule it for a hearing soon.

Despite that, local lawmakers are concerned about the possible consequences.

Shank and Snodgrass said they could not in good conscience vote for the condemnation bill.

"I resent the fact that that bill is being held hostage depending on our vote. There are only two things we have down here in Annapolis, our word and our integrity, and I'm not going to lose both. I'm going to vote no," said Snodgrass, R-Frederick/Washington.

Shank, R-Washington, said he was moved by the emotional testimony of people who begged the committee not to let the government take their homes.

They argued that the estimated 1,600 people who would be uprooted under the plan were not notified.

"I consider this to be a moral issue," he said.

By contrast, the South Mountain bill protects the rights of property owners near the battlefield, Shank said.

Del. Diane DeCarlo, D-Baltimore/Harford, has been leading the effort against the harbor bill. She vowed there will be a floor fight on the bill and if that fails she will try to take the issue to referendum.

DeCarlo argued that it's not an issue of local courtesy because the state has already pledged $2 million to aid the renewal project in 2001.

Baltimore County probably will ask for more state help in the $50.4 million project.

Most objections came from residents in the Essex Middle River Waterfront area.

Proponents argued they should not second-guess the majority of lawmakers who represent the affected area.

They said the county will hold public hearings on the issue before it proceeds and that displaced people and businesses will be compensated for their losses.

When the Senate voted to pass the Baltimore County bill, both local senators, Alex X. Mooney and Donald F. Munson, voted against it.

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