By Jon Meoli, email@example.com
7:59 AM EST, November 20, 2013
A faction of Towson residents is planning to speak out against a plan to move the Towson fire station and replace it with a Royal Farms store.
Residents of the small Morningside Drive community in West Towson — which overlooks the site — are planning a protest later this week, and intend to speak against the project at the Nov. 26 Baltimore County work session, resident Peggy King said Monday.
"We're not happy at all with the fact that the fire station is going to move," King said.
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced the winning bid for the Towson fire station and public works site, located at Bosley Avenue and York Road, on Oct. 24.
The Royal Farms proposal was submitted in April by CVP-TF LLC, which Kamenetz said includes Towson-based Caves Valley Partners. County officials said the present value of the bid is for $8.5 million, with the profits used to build a new fire station at the corner of Bosley Avenue and Towsontown Boulevard, officials said.
In addition to the Royal Farms store and gas station, the site will also feature approximately 10,000 square feet of retail, and a 4,200-square-foot pad that can be used as a restaurant or bank, officials said.
Plans also include LED lighting officials said will generate no light pollution, and a waterfall feature that they said will serve as a gateway to Towson for southbound commuters.
Still, people living nearby have raised concerns about whether the project fits the area. Though York Road is one of the busiest commercial thoroughfares in Baltimore County, the 26-home enclave on Morningside Drive in West Towson overlooks the fire station and several other residential communities stand across York Road.
King, president of the Morningside Community Association, said her neighborhood has four main issues. They're concerned about the lighting at the site; congestion at the already-crowded intersection; the loss of the fire station; and the crime they feel is associated with such convenience stores, King said.
According to King, many of the community's longtime residents "still have a lot of hard feelings" about the placement of the county detention center at its location at Bosley Avenue and Kenilworth Drive.
"The county shoved it down our throat," King said.
King said her neighborhood was planning a protest for later this week, which she said would likely be joined by surrounding communities and businesses.
Since the Royal Farms project was announced, Councilman David Marks, who represents Towson, said he's organized several meetings between the residents of Morningside Drive, the project's developers and county officials.
"What I am focusing on is protections that we could give those neighboring communities should the fire station be moved" and the Royal Farms project goes forward, Marks said. "I'm spending a lot of time on this issue, particularly with 101 York being moved off the radar. My top priority is making sure if this fire station is moved, we have as many protections as possible for western Towson in terms of noise, lighting — things like that."
Should the sale go through, the project will also need to be approved as a planned unit development (PUD), which is required for construction outside of a project's zoning designation. The land is zoned BM-CT, which is reserved for town centers but gas stations are not permitted in those areas.
Marks said the PUD approval process, which includes several public input periods, is an opportunity to "insist on very rigorous protections for the community."
When he announced the Royal Farms project bid, Kamenetz said the initial council vote to approve the bid would be based solely on whether the county has received fair value for the properties.
The Towson fire station sale is one of three property sale contracts the council slated for vote on Dec. 2. In Randallstown, the former police substation building is up for sale to a nearby nursing home, and Vanguard Development Group was selected as the winning bid for the North Point Government Center site in Dundalk. Pending approval of the sale, that site will be redeveloped as a retail center, with the surrounding open space and recreation center preserved.
The three contracts will be considered individually, and will be discussed at the Nov. 26 work session. The work session begins at 2 p.m. in the Historic Courthouse in Towson.