A contentious month of dialogue and a host of varying opinions from Towson's stakeholder groups has led Councilman David Marks to take a "timeout" on the planned 101 York student housing development, Marks announced Thursday.
"This project will advance no further until the developer completes a parking study that will be shared with stakeholders and within Baltimore County government," Marks said in a statement. "While the study is underway, I will continue to bring together the developer and key stakeholders to see if we can address the issues that were raised at the community input meeting. I'm listening, and I'm trying to deal with these concerns."
The $60 million 101 York project, which was announced in April at a press conference hosted by County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, almost immediately became a divisive issue in the Towson community.
The plans originally called for first-floor retail, 500 beds and 300 parking spaces for the student residents, though changes to the site plan and building design increased the number of beds to 571. The developers said at the time that the project would divert students out of the residential neighborhoods and closer to Towson University's campus, but surrounding neighborhoods are concerned about the corresponding noise, traffic and parking issues.
Because the project must be approved by the Baltimore County Council as a planned unit development, or PUD, which allows for a property to increase its zoning designation, Marks must submit it as a council resolution.
"The resolution's not going to be introduced any time soon," Marks said. "The formal review of this project never really began. I just think there's a lot of issues we need to work through."
"Parking is really the hot button here," David Schlachman, principal of DMS Development, said. "We're looking at a variety of things… (Councilman Marks) wants us to be very thorough. At the end of the day, I think he's doing the right thing. We'll have to just wait for all that information to come in."
The Greater Towson Council of Community Associations, an umbrella organization for Towson's community groups, opposed the project in June because they said there wasn't enough parking for its student residents, among other reasons. They were joined in opposition by the American Legion Towson Post No. 22, which would be the project's neighbor on the Towson Triangle parcel between York Road, West Burke Avenue and West Towsontown Boulevard.
In the last month, both the Towson Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Towson Committee, a development advocacy committee in Towson, have publicly supported the project.
As part of the PUD process, a community input meeting was required within 30 days of the Oct. 7 submission of the development plans to Marks. That input meeting, held on Oct. 30, was fiery, according to some attendees.
"People were frustrated and I understand it, and we tried the best we could do to explain to them," Schlachman said. "Some people were OK and would listen and take it in, and some people wouldn't."
Paul Hartman, president of the GTCCA, said he believes by Marks calling a timeout on the project the councilman is "responding to the concerns of the community that were brought up at that meeting."
"We're very happy that that's happened, and we can take a step back and reevaluate the project to see if there's some way additional parking could be implemented," Hartman said.
"That's still just one of the arguments against the project, though it seems to be the one that gets the most attention. There are other issues involved, but certainly that's the one that could be settled."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun