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Meeting on proposed Royal Farms in Towson draws standing-room-only crowd

Towson residents showed up in force Monday night to voice their opinions on a Royal Farms gas station a local developer has proposed building at the corner of Bosley Avenue and York Road.

More than 200 people showed at a community input meeting hosted by the developer, the Towson-based Caves Valley Partners.

Caves Valley has an agreement with Baltimore County to purchase and redevelop the roughly six-acre property from the county in a project that has met with opposition.

The parcel, which is the site of a former county fire station and public works facility, would become a 24-hour Royal Farms gas station and convenience store under a plan proposed by Caves Valley. The development also would include two one-story retail buildings.

Residents opposed to the project say a gas station would bring an increase in unwanted traffic, pour light into neighbors' homes, cause pollution and increase crime.

In December, the Baltimore County Council approved a Planned Use Development plan for the site, which would allow Caves Valley to build gas pumps on the parcel, which are not allowed under its current zoning.

In exchange, Caves Valley has agreed to pay $50,000 for improvements to the West Towson Trail, to plant trees in West Towson and to install solar-powered speed display signs on Stevenson Road, west of York Road, and on Stevenson Lane, east of York Road.

The meeting, which drew a standing room only crowd to the Conference Center at Sheppard Pratt, in Towson, is part of the process the developer's plan must undergo before county officials will vote on it.

Although Caves Valley representatives presented a plan for the project, much of the meeting consisted of residents voicing objections to the plan.

Martha McLaughlin, of Lutherville, questioned the need for another gas station in the area when six others exist within a mile of the proposed development.

Attorney Christopher Mudd, who represented Caves Valley at the meeting, said he was not prepared to answer the question.

"We think we've presented a pretty good product," Mudd said. "We frankly think it's one of the better looking things along this stretch of York Road."

Sharon Walker, of West Towson, questioned the additional traffic that could potentially coming off the Beltway if the gas station were built.

"Our downtown Towson roads cannot handle additional traffic coming off the Beltway," Walker said.

Baltimore County Councilman David Marks, a Republican who represents Towson, said in a May 8 email to the Towson Times that the County Council can, under the provisions of the PUD, vote to end further review of the project up to 90 days after the community input meeting.

Marks was not in attendance at the meeting, but was represented by a senior aide.

Opposition to the project reached a crescendo in early April when county officials removed trees from the land ahead of the sale. About 50 protestors gathered at the development site to condemn the cutting of the trees, which county officials said were cleaned in preparation for the sale approved by the County Council in 2013.

Earlier on Monday, the Rodgers Forge Community Association voted to oppose the project. The neighborhood is slated to receive a solar-powered speed sign on Stevenson Lane.

"The gas station itself does not provide a benefit to the area, and the expenditure of just $50,000 for area trails, trees and speed signs does not make up for the negative impacts this project would have on Towson," president Kristine Henry said in a May 8 email.

Cave Valley Partners must still submit its development plan to the county, Baltimore County spokeswoman Fronda Cohen in a May 8 email. The plan then would go to the county's Design Review Panel before going to the administrative law judge for a hearing, she said.

Although the County Council approved a contract to sell the land to Caves Valley in 2013, the sale has not yet moved forward.

Caves Valley representatives declined to comment for this story apart from what they presented at the meeting.

"I think we have addressed some significant concerns," Mudd said. "Obviously we have not addressed all concerns. We're going to keep trying. At the end of the day I don't expect that everyone's going to be happy."

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporter Rachael Pacella contributed to this story.

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