By Alison Knezevich, The Baltimore Sun
7:30 PM EDT, June 20, 2012
Baltimore County Councilman Kenneth Oliver wants his colleagues to reject a proposal to allow a retail development anchored by a Wegmans supermarket at the former Solo Cup plant site in Owings Mills.
Oliver represents a district near the site and said his main concern about the proposed Foundry Row development is traffic congestion on Reisterstown Road.
The Randallstown Democrat said he also believes the site, which is in Council Chairwoman Vicki Almond's district, should be preserved as manufacturing property and said using it for retail is not "smart growth."
"I have a whole bunch of concerns," Oliver said Wednesday. "I've been against the project since Day One."
The development firm Greenberg Gibbons plans to build a 400,000-square-foot shopping center at the site. The council is in the midst of a comprehensive zoning review, and development in Owings Mills has become the most hotly debated topic.
In making zoning decisions, the council has followed a tradition called "councilmanic courtesy," by which all seven members support the position of the councilperson who represents the district where changes are proposed. Almond, a Reisterstown Democrat, has not announced her position on the Solo Cup issue.
Oliver represents the area that is home to the Owings Mills Mall — scheduled for a revamping — and the planned Metro Centre, a large mixed-use development that will feature the county's largest library branch and a community college center, as well as residential and retail space. Developers of those two projects oppose the Solo Cup rezoning.
Greenberg Gibbons has said it would spend $7 million on traffic improvements near the site of its proposed shopping center.
"The traffic will be better with our project there and with the traffic improvements that we are going to perform than if the project never happens," Greenberg Gibbons chairman and CEO Brian Gibbons said.
If his firm gets approval to use the site for retail, the development process for the shopping center could take up to 18 months, Gibbons added, saying state and county officials would scrutinize traffic issues related to the project during that period.
On Tuesday, Oliver issued a statement calling for a delay in the council's zoning vote on the Solo Cup site, citing state traffic studies of Reisterstown Road.
Oliver said Wednesday that he is not seeking a delay on the vote, but rather for the council to outright reject the zoning request.
Almond said the council cannot delay votes on zoning issues. Under county law, the council must adopt new zoning maps by mid-September. The next council zoning review will not take place for another four years.
"We've had a year to investigate, research, do whatever we need to do on the issues in our districts, and I don't think there is a mechanism in the process for putting off the vote," Almond said.
She said she has not made a decision on the Solo Cup site.
"I'm holding back all my decisions for a while because I'm still studying" the issues, she said.
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