Baltimore County Council hears no criticism of deal to sell site of 'tree-gate,' Royal Farms controversies

A proposal to significantly cut the sales price of a county-owned property in Towson that’s being sold for private development sailed through a Baltimore County Council work session on Tuesday.

Only the head of Towson’s Chamber of Commerce spoke during a public hearing on the plan, which involves sale of property at the corner of York Road and Bosley Avenue to developers Caves Valley Partners.

Chamber director Nancy Hafford said she “really hopes” the council approves the change in sale price from $8.3 million to $6.9 million.

“It’s one of the main entrances to Towson and it looks terrible, and it’s looked terrible for a long time,” Hafford said.

A council vote on the contract is scheduled for Monday.

The property has housed a fire station and public works facility, but in 2012 County Executive Kevin Kamenetz decided to put it up for sale. Caves Valley was the winning bidder, and proposed turning the site into a commercial development with one-story retail shops and a Royal Farms gas station and convenience store.

Many neighbors opposed that plan, saying it didn’t suit the property’s stature as a “gateway” into downtown Towson. Ultimately, Caves Valley agreed to drop the convenience store and gas station — but also sought to renegotiate the sale price.

Under the revised contract, the price is now $6.9 million. Caves Valley would actually pay about $5 million; the company will get a credit of about $1.9 million against the sale price by agreeing to forego future property tax credits it would be eligible for.

Officials with Caves Valley Partners attended Tuesday’s public hearing but did not speak. In an interview Arthur Adler, a partner in the firm, said he’s optimistic the stalled project will finally be able to move forward once the council votes on the revised contract.

Adler said he believed there was no opposition at the hearing because there are no surprises in the new contract. Caves Valley officials had already met with local residents who opposed the Royal Farms gas station and agreed to the types of uses that will allowed in the development.

“We had long and detailed discussions with the community to resolve this,” Adler said.

The main criticism of the original redevelopment proposal centered on the Royal Farms, with some arguing it would be an unattractive welcome to Towson that could cause traffic problems and send light spilling into adjacent neighborhoods. Some worried there would be negative health effects at a nearby school or threaten the viability of existing gas stations in the area.

Adler said despite the years-long process, he believes his company will build a development that people will like.

“This will be a project all of Towson will love going to on a frequent basis,” he said.

The Kamenetz administration estimates it has spent nearly $170,000 readying the property for sale, including relocating fiber optic cables, commissioning appraisals, demolishing structures and removing trees. The county also spent $7.6 million to build a new fire station elsewhere in Towson.

The tree removal last April angered some neighbors who said it was in violation of a resolution governing development at the site that was in effect at the time.

Last week, dozens of demonstrators marked the anniversary of the felling of the trees — which they dubbed “tree-gate” — by chanting and waving signs at rush hour.

pwood@baltsun.com

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