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Kenwood Avenue PUD riles Catonsville residents

More than three dozen people express concerns at community input meeting Thursday

By Brian Conlin, bconlin@patuxent.com

1:03 PM EST, December 23, 2011

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A community meeting Thursday about the proposed construction of a medical office on a site nestled between Interstate 695 and Wilkens and Kenwood avenues attracted more than three dozen people, most of whom opposed the project.

Of those attending the 90-minute meeting at Arbutus Library, nearly half resided in the Kenwood Garden Condominiums, across from the proposed 2-acre site.

"We have quality of life concerns. We're used to having our green space (where the building would be)," said Noreen Startt, a Kenwood Gardens condominium resident since 2004, after the meeting.

"We're used to having a residential feel to our community. We don't necessarily want a large, commercial office building across from us," Startt added. "We're really afraid that thing is just going to dwarf our community."

Developer Steve Whalen showed preliminary plans for the 85,000-square-foot medical complex and fielded questions on a variety of topics.

The property has been zoned for office building since 1984, Whalen noted.

Responding to traffic concerns, Whalen said he hired a traffic engineer who concluded that an additional stop light on Wilkens Avenue could significantly improve traffic flow in the area.

For noise concerns, Whalen reasoned that the building would do as much or more to block the sound of traffic on I-695 than the current sound wall.

Responding to reservations about vacancies, Whalen said he has two potential tenants interested in occupying about 50 percent of the building.

Whalen's answers seemed to do little to assuage the opposition.

Several in the audience requested another meeting with Baltimore County officials, and the Maryland State Highway Administration, to answer questions outside of Whalen's expertise.

It is unclear whether another meeting with county officials will occur.

For those like Sandy Barnett, however, no answer could address her main concern — the loss of the green, open space.

Barnett, who has lived on Stafford Drive near the proposed construction site for 25 years, said the buzz of insects and rustle of leaves on the mature trees provide something a medical building simply couldn't.

"Even though it's a relatively small parcel, (the nature) just helps to create that lovely ambience," Barnett said. "It does contribute to our local climate and it also contributes to the aesthetics of the area."

"I feel that the new project, while it is architecturally quite pleasant to look at, it's just way over-sized for the architecture in the area," she said. "It's just going to stick out a bit like a sore thumb."