Construction is slated to begin this month at Donnybrook Apartments on a new parking lot, a project that will remove a large parcel of green space but alleviate the parking crunch by residents on nearby streets.
Maura Howard, regional manager for the property manager Continental Realty, said the project will be shaped like a horseshoe and will add approximately 70 spaces on the lower end of East Burke Avenue.
Last month, contractors staked out a construction site that comprises almost the entire green space between Burke Avenue and the apartments, and Howard said only a pre-construction meeting with Baltimore County officials remained to take place before construction could begin.
Howard said planning discussions about adding parking began last year, and the management company has spent the first half of 2013 securing permits for the project.
Currently, Donnybrook Apartments have limited onsite parking, with a majority of residents parking on the surrounding streets. Howard said the surrounding community has complained about the volume of apartment tenants' cars parked on the street.
As the demographics of the apartments changed and more students moved into the apartments, Howard said they began to look at where parking could be added. She said the chosen green space was the option with the lowest cost and potential for the most parking spots.
Howard said the lot would be for residents only, but all residents — both those who park in the lots and those who use the street as overflow parking — will need a permit for their vehicles.
Residents won't be required to park in lots, but the permits will allow management to keep better track of which residents which vehicles belong to.
"We are doing permit parking, so if they're a resident of Donnybrook, we hope that that's going to enable us to identify any of our residents that may be causing the violations out on the street on Garden Road, (like) blocking of driveways," Howard said.
The surrounding community's reaction is dictated by its relationship to the apartments, Greater Towson Council of Community Associations President Paul Hartman said.
Hartman said residents of Knollwood and Donnybrook are in favor of the project, which could free up the streetside parking for those neighborhoods' residents.
In an email, Knollwood-Donnybrook Improvement Association President Charlene Heaberlin said "none of us want to see any trees go, but we realize that more parking is needed."
"Our relationship with the apartment complex has been a good one and they have been helpful in addressing any of our concerns in the past," Heaberlin said. "We believe they will be responsible and plant more trees and landscape in a way that will offset any negative appearance of the parking lot. Residents in Knollwood will benefit because there will be more pakring for them in front of their homes."
However, residents of Towson Manor Village, which sits across the street from the apartments, are lamenting the loss of green space.
Ed Kilcullen, a community leader from Towson Manor Village, said the amount of land that will be used for the lot is "pretty alarming."
"Maybe they can expand existing parking lots, but to take out a huge area of green space and mature trees — I know they're going to replace the trees, but you're going to have a sea of asphalt over there, and new trees are going to take quite a while to get any size."
Councilman David Marks, who represents the 5th District including Towson, said that 11 trees will be removed and 26 new ones will be planted.
"As much as I hate to see trees taken down, there is a plan to replant more than twice the number, and the neighborhood wants student renters to stop parking in the neighborhood," Marks said. "As long as we spread student renters out into neighborhoods and away from Towson University, those are the trade-offs that will be made."