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Royal Farms proposal is winning bid for Towson fire station property

A panel of Baltimore County officials has selected a proposal featuring a Royal Farms convenience store and gas station as the winning bid for the Towson fire station and public works property at the corner of York Road and Bosley Avenue.

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz on Thursday announced the results of a months-long process by the procurement panel of reviewing proposals to sell and redevelop the sites of the Towson fire station and two other county sites, North Point Government Center in Dundalk and the Randallstown Police Substation. Each facility will be replaced at other county-owned properties with modernized replacement facilities funded by the property sales.

"The old way of doing things in the county would be to borrow taxpayer dollars, increase debt and construct replacement facilities on the existing site," Kamenetz said. "We decided that if we want to be consistant with our goals to be innovative, responsive and efficient, we needed to consider alternative ways of achieving these goals."

The plan to sell the Towson fire station site for development came to light last December amid rumors that Towson Manor Park would be the site of a new firehouse.

Towson Manor residents fought to keep that park, and when the requests for proposals were issued in January, county officials said a new fire station would instead be built on the site of the county fueling station at Towsontown Boulevard and Bosley Avenue.

Baltimore County received five bids for the Towson firehouse property, but the procurement panel tasked with evaluating the bids ultimately chose the Royal Farms bid, which the panel presently values at $8.5 million.

CVP-TF LLC, which Kamenetz said includes Towson-based Caves Valley Partners, submitted the bid.

According to the county, the development plans include "the latest prototype" of a Royal Farms store and gas station, approximately 10,000 square feet of retail strip, and a 4,200 square-foot pad site that can be used by a restaurant or bank, among other uses.

County officials said the development would include LED lighting that produces no off-site light pollution and the Royal Farms building will strive for LEED silver certification.

Additionally, the development will feature a roadside waterfall to serve as a gateway to Towson as motorists drive south on York Road from the Beltway toward downtown.

Kamenetz said that a new fire station, which would include the drive-in, drive-out truck bays and separate male and female sleeping quarters that the current station lacks, would cost "at least $6 million." Any other monies left from the sale would go toward area school improvements.

'Trying to digest' size of project

The county executive met Thursday morning with community leaders of the affected areas to discuss the project.

SueAnn Griffin, president of the West Towson Neighborhood Association, could not attend, but after being briefed by community representatives who did, she said the association has the same worries it did before the project announcement.

Griffin said West Towson residents are concerned about increased traffic as well as the possibility for light pollution emanating from the development as the community is already subject to obtrusive artificial light from the Baltimore County Corrections Facility located across the street from the fire station.

Josh Glikin, a West Towson board member and past president, attended the meeting and said that his community is just "trying to digest the size of the proposal for the site." But Glikin is heartened by the inclusion of the waterfall feature as well as the reputation of developer Caves Valley Partners, which renovated and opened Towson City Center and has also committed to a $300 million commercial/residential development in downtown known as Towson Row.

He has concerns, however, about what Royal Farms' store hours could be store's hours and the fact that the gas station canopy will be the most prominentaspect of the site.

"I'm hopeful we'll be able to resolve the issues our residents have with it and it'll all get worked out," Glikin said.

Griffin said the community was happier with a previous proposal for the property, which included high-end grocer Harris Teeter. Kamenetz also said that proposal, a $6.1 million bid that included the grocery store with an apartment structure over it, was the procument panel's first choice.

The bidder on that proposal, 800 York Road LLC, was comprised of Birchwood Capital Partners, Taylor Property Group and 28 Walker Associates.

But, Kamenetz said, Harris Teeter would not commit to the project and the bid was removed from consideration after there were several deadline extension made.

Other proposals not chosen included one for a Wawa food store and gas station, plus retail, and one for Whole Foods Market. Because the county received similar proposals with higher bids attached, those were not considered.

Lastly, 718 York Road LLC, submitted a proposal for a portion of the land for continued use as overflow parking for the Towson Diner. Kamenetz said the county currently leases a small piece of property to the Towson Diner for parking, and the evaluation committee recommended that arrangement continue with the buyer.

The contracts will be introduced as fiscal items at the next Baltimore County Council meeting, scheduled for Monday, Nov. 4, discussed at a work session on Tuesday, Nov. 12, and called for a vote Monday, Nov. 18. All county land sales must be approved by the council.

Councilman David Marks, who represents Towson, said he's been speaking with community leaders about the process for several months.

"Now that the county executive has forwarded a proposal, I will continue this dialogue and thoughtfully review the plan that is before the council," Marks said.

Kamenetz said the County Council's vote next month will be primarily to determine whether fair market value was received for the land.

The Towson project, however, will require a planned unit development (PUD) proposal. In Baltimore County, the PUD process allows for denser development than a property's zoning permits, provided the project fills a community need and has a demonstrated community benefit.

The property is currently zoned BM-CT, which allows for major business in a town center, but gas stations are not permitted in that zoning class. The PUD process includes several stages of public input, which Kamenetz said would be the public's chance to review and critique the plans themselves.

This story will be updated.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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