Councilman withdraws measures aimed at planned Starbucks in Rodgers Forge

Rodgers Forge residents get legislative update from Marks regarding proposed Starbucks

A Baltimore County Councilman said Wednesday that he will withdraw a pair of measures he introduced in response to neighborhood opposition to the inclusion of a drive-through window at a Starbucks coffee shop planned for the intersection of York Road and Regester Avenue, in Towson, near Rodgers Forge and Anneslie.

The first measure, which Towson representative David Marks introduced Jan. 3, would have created a special design review district along York Road in the commercial area of those neighborhoods. Marks said at a meeting of the Rodgers Forge Community Association Wednesday night that he will withdraw the resolution after hearing concerns from the community about possible economic incentives for builders that would accompany the creation of such a district and therefore might attract additional unwanted development.

Marks said before the meeting that he also will withdraw a bill he introduced in December that would have required Starbucks officials to complete a study of the planned store's impact on local traffic before county officials issue Starbucks an occupancy permit needed to open the location. Marks said he is withdrawing that bill because staff members from County Executive Kevin Kamenetz's office "made it clear [Kamenetz] would veto the bill," he said, adding that he believes that he would be unable to garner the five votes from his council colleagues necessary to override a veto.

"County Executive staff made it clear to the Councilman that traffic studies, when necessary, are appropriately done during the development review process, not after construction has been completed," Ellen Kobler, a spokeswoman for Kamenetz said in an emailed statement, when asked to comment on Marks' assertion that Kamenetz threatened to veto his proposal.

Although county officials approved the planned Starbucks in April, its construction has not begun.

When asked specifically if any county official told Marks the county executive would veto the bill, Kobler reiterated her statement.

Meanwhile, a month after they held a rally to protest the inclusion of the drive-through window at the Starbucks, residents of Rodgers Forge said at the community meeting that they will continue to resist the project.

Some residents of Rodgers Forge, Anneslie and Stoneleigh have said they would be happy to have a nearby Starbucks but that they fear the addition of a drive-through would bring additional traffic to the area and that cars exiting the window onto Regester Avenue could pose a threat to students walking to and from nearby Dumbarton Middle School. Some residents have also said that they were surprised to learn at the end of the year that county officials had approved the Starbucks in April, and felt blindsided by the news.

At the community association meeting Wednesday, board members discussed possible legislative reactions to the Starbucks with Marks, that Marks said would not stop construction of the coffee shop but protect against future unwanted development in the neighborhood.

Rodgers Forge Community Association president Kris Henry said a study of traffic at the intersection of York Road and Regester Avenue, which community groups in Rodgers Forge, Anneslie and Stoneleigh commissioned at a cost of $4,500, was complete, though she declined to share the results of that study, saying the board needed to review the findings in detail first.

In an email later Wednesday night, Henry added that the community association is still looking at potential actions to make officials of Baltimore County and Starbucks "come to their senses."

"It is beyond frustrating that Starbucks can't see that the Rodgers Forge location is much more similar to its store in Roland Park, which does not have a drive through, than it is to its locations deep in suburbia where everything is centered around cars," Henry said in the email.

At the meeting, Marks explained the reasoning behind his resolution to require that all new commercial construction along York Road between Dumbarton and Windwood Roads be subject to review by the county's Design Review Panel, a board of nine architectural and engineering experts whose mission is to encourage design excellence in building projects.

He explained that creating the special design review district would also mean creating a Commercial Revitalization District for the area, adding that while revitalization districts offer design panel review, they also offer economic incentives to builders, such as free architectural consulting, tax credits for physical improvements that improve a property's value by more than $100,000, and access to other program and grants.

Henry and members of the Rodgers Forge board said they would like to hear feedback from businesses in the area on the potential creation of a Commercial Revitalization District before moving forward with legislation.

"I don't want to rush into this and think, 'What did we just do?'" Henry said.

Marks said he would withdraw the resolution. He added that he plans to speak with the county council's attorneys to see if it is possible to impose design panel review on an area without creating a revitalization district.

Starbucks officials did not return a request for comment.

This story has been updated.

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