Baltimore County's Design Review Panel on Wednesday conditionally approved plans for a pair of luxury apartment buildings containing 430 units at the site of Dulaney Valley Apartments on Dulaney Valley Road in Towson.
"This is the edge of the downtown area, and really is just before the gateway (of Towson)," Daryl Carrington, architect for the project, told the panel. "We perceive the proposed buildings as making, somehow, a transition between that higher density commercial district and the single-family residential neighborhood.
Approval was given subject to the specifics of a landscape buffer between the buildings and the existing residential community. The Design Review Panel consists of nine members with architectural, design and landscaping backgrounds that evaluate development plans to ensure development standards are met.
With approval from the Design Review Panel, the design plans will be submitted to individual county agencies for additional approvals.
Jonathan Mayers, president of Chesapeake Realty Partners, said similar plans were approved in 2005 as part of a four-building complex that includes two apartment buildings currently known as the Quarters. Those two buildings, located between Fairmount Avenue, Dulaney Valley Road and Southerly Road contain 430 of the 900 units that were planned for the entire property.
Plans for the remaining two buildings, which will be developed by Chesapeake Realty Partners, Wood Partners and the Taylor Property Group, take what the county approved nearly a decade ago and modernizes them, Mayers said.
One building, known as Building 3, would have 175 apartments and 365 parking spaces, plus an interior courtyard with a pool, patio and activity space. Building 3 faces Southerly Road and Locustvale Road.
The second, larger building — Building 4 — would face Dulaney Valley Road and Southerly Road, and feature 255 apartments and 550 parking spaces. That building will feature a pair of courtyards as well, one of which will feature a pool.
Both buildings will also feature indoor recreation space, and the parking structures in each will be contained within the buildings and only accessible by a service drive between the two buildings.
Construction on Building 4 could begin in the fall, with work on Building 3 beginning several years down the road, the developers said.
Several panel members, including David Martin and William Monk, both said the design plans were much improved from the ones previously approved. Residents and panel members alike decried the condition of the existing buildings at the Quarters, as well as the unappealing view from Dulaney Valley Road.
Carrington said the developer's goals were to create a walkable community in line with a plan drafted by Towson's Urban Design Assistance Team.
By internalizing open space, amenities and the parking structure, Carrington said the developers intend to create a "distinctive residential community" that "could operate very much as independent communities, thereby reducing their impact on the rest of the community."
The impact on the surrounding community was discussed at length on Wednesday night. Representatives from the 11 single-family homes along Locustvale Road expressed concerns about privacy from their new neighbors, which would abut the Locustvale residents' property lines.
Michele Ekoinus, who lives on Locustvale Road, asked the panel to give consideration to banning balconies from the side the faces and overlooked the homes.
My big concern is the privacy to all of the neighbors on that side of the road that will now have four- and five-story buildings sort of looking down on us," Ekoinus said. "It's going to be a totally different feel to the neighborhood."
Mayers and Carrington said the companies involved are committed to working with the communities on the landscape in a buffer space between the houses and the apartment buildings.
Carrington said that under the current plans, the buffer space would feature a "park-like setting with denser plating toward the property line … and to draw that sidewalk a little bit closer to our building."
The plans have support from many of Towson's stakeholder groups. Mayers said the Greater Towson Committee and Towson Chamber of Commerce submitted letters of support for the project, while Greater Towson Council of Community Associations President Paul Hartman spoke in support of the project before the panel.
"We feel that the plans that we've seen tonight are superior to the previous plans that were derailed for various reasons," Hartman said. "The architecture looks much better, and the design of the building certainly is going to look better, but also will function better."