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News Maryland Baltimore County Towson

Dozens turn out to protest 101 York student housing complex in Towson

Responding to continuing concerns from the community about the 101 York student housing project, County Councilman David Marks has asked the council not to vote on the planned unit development resolution on the building plan at Monday's meeting.

Marks sent an email indicating his intentions to Paul Hartman, president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations and Joshua Gliken, of the Towson Triangle Committee, in the hours leading up to a planned street protest against the project on Thursday.

Calling his decision "the right thing to do," Marks said he wants to work with community members to answer their concerns. "I still want to see if there's a way to address the community's concerns," he said.

Marks said in the email, "I will work with both of you to see if any modifications can possibly be made to the proposal. Both of your organizations were respectful in your testimony" during a work session held earlier in the week on May 13.

"I'm absolutely willing to discuss it," said Hartman, as he joined the Thursday curbside protest against the housing plan.

"I guess that's a hopeful sign," Pat France, of the Towson Area Citizens Patrol, said about Marks' email during the demonstration.

Under gray skies, about 70 people gathered between 4:30 and 6 p.m. and on the sidewalk in front of the site of 101 York to carry signs; hand out copies of protest letters to send to the County Council; and answer questions from motorists stopped at the traffic light at York Road and Bosley Avenue.

About a third of the protesters were associated with the American Legion Post 22 whose property abuts the building site. The remainder, which included children plus a few dogs, live in the communities nearby, including Towson Manor Village, Towson Green, Knollwood-Donnybrook, Burkleigh Square and West Towson.

Their signs expressed concerns about parking, traffic, the size of the building: "Council Marks: listen to your constituents, we matter too," "Don't tread on my Legion," and "We don't need more dorms." And people were clearly angry about the project — shared stories of students partying late into the night, trash and traffic. 

DMS Development has proposed a mixed-use building with 9,300 square feet retail at the street level and beds for 611 students. There would be 495 parking spaces, as well as an option to lease another 150 parking spaces from the Baltimore County Library garage.

As a planned unit development, or PUD, Marks had asked for additional changes to make the project — which has faced criticism since it was first announced — including additional parking, bike racks, changes in architecture and a community benefit package directed to the three closest neighborhoods. The changes raised the cost of construction from $60 million to $75 million, Marks said in April.

But residents of nearby communities told the County Council at the May 13 work session that the changes weren't sufficient. And they continued to criticize the project on the streets of Towson Thursday evening.

"It's like building a 10-pound building on a 5-pound site. It's going to spill out all over the neighborhood," said Jim Rebbert, modifying an old expression. "A dorm should be on campus," said Rebbert, a past commander of the American Legion post.

"We've experienced that overflow of student parking," said Florence Newman, a retired Towson University professor, who lives on a nearby street.

Mike Parr, one of the organizers and adjutant for the Sons of the American Legion, handed out form letters, asking people to sign them and send them to the County Council.

"I've been handing these out and people have been saying thank you," he said.

Motorists were curious about the protest and asked what the protest was about while they were stopped for a red light. Honking horns were nearly non-stop as passersby responded to the signs. 

"Thank you! Thank you!" one driver shouted out the window of his white sedan with a thumbs-up.

"We made the point," Hartman said as the demonstration came to an end.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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