Construction of apartments, shops and offices at the Owings Mills Metro Centre remains on schedule, despite political wrangling over the project and other developments in the area.
Three new structures — two apartment buildings and an office building that will also feature retail space — are set to be done by spring 2013. Baltimore County politicians and business leaders gathered at the construction site Tuesday for a groundbreaking ceremony hosted by developer David S. Brown Enterprises.
The huge project near Interstate 795 and Painters Mill Road was the subject of legislation that has caused infighting on the County Council. County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said this month that he would veto the measure.
That bill, whose lead sponsor was County Councilman Kenneth Oliver, a Randallstown Democrat, would have exempted the Metro Centre from various development regulations. Some council members amended the bill to protect Foundry Row, a nearby project planned for the former Solo Cup site that still needs retail zoning approval.
Even though he had sought the legislation, David S. Brown Enterprises chairman Howard Brown said Tuesday that he was pleased with the county executive's veto because he believed the changes the council made to protect Foundry Row had "overreached."
Brown said he would now seek zoning variances to accomplish what the legislation would have done.
"I still can develop what I want," he said.
Foundry Row developer Greenberg Gibbons believed the Metro Centre bill could have undermined its project, set to be an upscale shopping center anchored by a Wegmans supermarket. Amendments by County Council Chairwoman Vicki Almond and Councilwoman Cathy Bevins were meant to protect the project, which is in Almond's district.
Almond, a Reisterstown Democrat, said Tuesday that she hopes council members can "mend some fences" over the issue once the county's zoning review process is over later this summer.
"The council needs to be more cohesive, and we haven't been," she said "We need to fix that."
Kamenetz, who called the bill bad public policy when he announced he would veto it, said Tuesday that his administration had not taken a position on the bill initially.
"The council did not consult with the administration on the original bill or with any of their amendments — their last-minute amendments," Kamenetz said.
Among other things, the amendments would have exempted all projects within a half-mile of the Metro Centre from traffic studies.
The Metro Centre is the county's first transit-oriented development, designed to be a dense, mixed-use project that will encourage people to use mass transit. It is located near the Metro station and the Owings Mills Mall, which is set to be redeveloped.
Two of the buildings being constructed will house a total of 240 apartments, ranging from 700 square feet to 1,200 square feet each. The five-story buildings will feature stores and restaurants on the ground floors. Additionally, a 200,000-square foot, four-story building will include office and retail space.
Brown wants to eventually build 1,700 apartment units.
The project also will feature the county's largest library branch and a new community college center. Construction of those buildings started in 2011 and is scheduled to wrap up early next year.
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