A plan 14 years in the works to relocate the Catonsville District Courthouse to a six-acre site in the northwestern section of Catonsville is moving forward, now that the State has allocated capital funds for the next fiscal year.
The courthouse, currently located across from the Wilkens Precinct Police Station and adjacent to the University of Baltimore County campus, will relocate to a location off Johnnycake and North Rolling Roads at the Interstate-70 overpass. The land, purchased from developer Whalen Properties, is adjacent to the Rolling Crosswinds office park, which is owned by Whalen.
The renderings show a stately-looking stone building with a prominent entryway. It will butt up to a quiet Westview community of single-family homes that may not be used to having as its neighbor a facility that will have hundreds of visitors a week coming to resolve traffic violations, landlord-tenant disputes and criminal cases.
Construction is slated to begin in January 2017 and be completed in 2019. The courthouse’s location is within a half mile of the Islamic Society of Baltimore, recreation ball fields, a senior housing center, a nursing facility, office buildings, several strip shopping centers, restaurants and Security Square Mall.
The impact on the community remains to be seen. Some welcome the potential for jobs and the business that attorneys, workers and visitors may bring when they eat lunch, drop off their clothes for dry cleaning, do their banking and take advantage of other services in the area.
Other local residents may be more leery. They may worry that their property values may be negatively impacted. They also may be concerned that heavier-than-normal traffic will clog Rolling Road and Johnnycake Road and more vehicles will detour through neighborhoods to avoid congestion. Some expressed concerns about security when prisoners are brought to the courthouse for trial and bail hearings.
The plans on the replacement courthouse were laid out in a June 8 meeting at which District 44B Delegates Charles Sydnor and Pat Young, and Sen. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam’s representative Kenny Brown, were present. Sydnor says he asked for the meeting after the legislature adopted a capital budget for fiscal year 2017 that included $28.5 million for a new courthouse, and he wanted more information on the project.
Discussions on the project began in 2002. Representatives say it’s a done deal and there will be no opportunity for community input. Legislation passed by the Baltimore County Council years ago required that a new courthouse had to be in the same zip code of the courthouse it was replacing. That means State official’s property search was limited to the 21228 zip code. The only other site under consideration was the Spring Grove campus and that got the thumbs down. With limited options, the State of Maryland purchased the property from Whalen Properties in 2011 for $2.8 million.
The building will green, state-of-the-art with five levels and a parking garage to accommodate 300 vehicles. It will triple the courthouse’s current space to 92,000 square feet and house seven courtrooms. One courtroom will have the capacity for 120 people and the others will accommodate 100. The current one-level building has 32,000 square feet and three small courtrooms, which at times are standing-room only.
The new courthouse’s lower level will be for prisoner control and the second level will house government offices and space for advocacy; the court rooms and hearing rooms will be on the third and fourth levels; and the judges’ chambers will be located on the top level.
Recognizing the need to enhance security for judges, judges will enter and exit through a secure parking area and take dedicated elevators. There will be separate corridors for judges, inmates going to trial and the public. Offices for Department of Juvenile Services, Parole and Probation, and General Services may occupy building.
We can expect that University of Maryland Baltimore County, which is looking to expand, has its eyes on the courthouse property, which butts up to the Walker Avenue Apartments that houses UMBC students.