Baltimore County, Caves Valley reach $6.9M deal for Towson site after opponents killed gas station plan

The Baltimore County government proposed a new deal to sell an old fire station site in Towson for development, an effort that previously stalled due to community opposition when a redevelopment plan included a convenience store and gas station.

The county will sell the 5.8-acre property at the corner of York Road and Bosley Avenue to Caves Valley Partners for a little more than $6.9 million — lower than the original proposed sale price of $8.3 million, according to county documents.

Towson-based Caves Valley would actually pay about $5 million under the proposed deal, because the company is agreeing to waive future tax credits it would be eligible for worth $1.9 million.

The property, considered by some to be a “gateway” site into downtown Towson, has been a source of controversy ever since County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced plans to sell it for private development in 2012. The property has housed a fire station and public works yard.

Caves Valley Partners was the winning bidder for the site, offering the $8.3 million with plans to build a Royal Farms gas station and convenience store, as well as two buildings for retail development. Initially called Towson Gateway, the project’s name was changed to Towson Station.

Many residents opposed the Royal Farms concept, saying a gas station and convenience store would be incompatible with the site. Some also expressed environmental concerns.

Residents were further frustrated last spring, when the county cut down dozens of mature trees on the property — a move that led to protests.

The revised plan for Towson Station retains the two retail buildings, but replaces the Royal Farms with a spot for a free-standing tenant that will not be a gas station, convenience store or 24-hour business — except for possibly an urgent care clinic, according to Caves Valley Partners.

Caves Valley officials signed a covenant agreement with neighbors in January promising not to pursue a gas station. The pact will become part of the land records of the property once Caves Valley finalizes the purchase.

Arthur Adler, a partner in Caves Valley Partners, declined an interview request, but said in a statement the new deal is a “compromise solution that met the needs of all parties and will promote a stronger, more vibrant Towson.”

Councilman David Marks, who represents Towson, said Friday he was reviewing the new proposal.

“Everyone is interested in bringing closure to this issue,” said Marks, a Perry Hall Republican.

Kamenetz, a Democrat who is running for governor, declined interview requests through a spokeswoman, but said in a statement the new contract “will achieve our goal of saving taxpayer dollars in the construction of a new fire station, while generating property tax revenue and jobs for the county.”

The replacement fire station cost the county $7.6 million to build

From the start, some Towson residents were frustrated the Caves Valley proposal won out over another bidder who planned to build a Harris Teeter grocery store on the site.

Caves Valley officials eventually agreed last summer to drop plans for the gas station after Marks attempted to rescind a decision allowing the project to go forward. Councilman Tom Quirk was then tapped by Kamenetz to lead negotiations between Caves Valley officials and neighborhood leaders to attempt to reach a compromise.

Quirk, a Catonsville Democrat, said he felt the neighborhood leaders and Caves Valley officials were “very fair and very reasonable” during the negotiations.

He also said he thought the revised purchase price is fair.

The revised contract is scheduled to go to the Baltimore County Council for approval in April. A public hearing and work session will be held April 10, with a vote scheduled for April 16.

Under the new deal, the property sale must close by June 30.

After closing, Caves Valley is required to seek approval for the revised development. If it’s not approved, the company would have another option — it could ask to be considered under the county’s planned-unit development process, which allows zoning flexibility and could be a route for the developers to include a gas station. Caves Valley would have to pay the county an additional $1.28 million under that scenario.

The new deal was first reported by the Towson Flyer website.

pwood@baltsun.com

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