Members of the Baltimore County Council on Monday approved a contract with John Vontran, the former president of a company that leases video poker machines to bars, restaurants and convenience stores. Vontran will pay $1.6 million for the 10-acre parcel, the former home of the crime-ridden Yorkway Apartments acquired by the county for more than $20 million.
Preliminary plans call for single-family homes.
“We did not approach this as strictly an economic investment, we approached is as a social investment,” said county administrator Fred Homan. “We believe workforce housing has a market, and we believe it has a market there.”
The land was appraised for slightly less than Vontran’s bid. But some lawmakers said the county could wait until the real estate market rebounds, potentially netting a profit.
North County Republican Bryan McIntire said the proposal “lacks judgment,” before voting in favor of the contract. Ultimately, Catonsville Democrat Sam Moxley cast the only negative vote.
“It doesn’t cost us anything to hold on to the property,” Moxley said. “The problem in the community has been corrected. We put out $20 million already.”
Vontran agreed to utilize the county’s Planned Unit Development process, which will require a public hearing and approval from the council and county planning board.
The developer declined last week to elaborate on his plans, which will replace the 56 low-rent apartment buildings previously on the site. Dundalk Democrat John Olszewski Sr. said police received 3,500 calls for aid from Yorkway in one year.
Vontran was the subject of criticism in a 2006 Abell Foundation that said he made half of the “underground gambling” industry’s $45,600 in political contributions since 2006. Vontran has given at least $2,500 to Olszewski’s campaigns since 2000.
Vontran said he sold his gambling devices business last year, but declined to name the new owner.