Towson firehouse

Towson firehouse. (May 15, 2014)

Plans for a new Towson firehouse moved forward Wednesday when the Design Review Panel voted to approve the design for the brick two-story structure planned for the corner of Bosley Avenue and Towsontown Boulevard.

Area residents were on hand to express concerns about the building's plain design, as well as worries about traffic and noise.

The firehouse design calls for with five bays for emergency vehicles and a two-story wing with 12 dorm rooms, kitchen, storage and meeting space, according to David Recchia, a partner and vice president of Towson architectural firm Rubeling & Associates, which designed the building.

The 18,000-square-foot structure would be built of brick with a beige horizontal trim at the window sills and across the roof line. The vehicle bays would open on both Bosley and Courtland avenues. Bay doors on the Bosley Avenue side would be glass, while the less visible doors on Courtland would be glass and steel.

Baltimore County Fire Department Assistant Chief Kyrle W. Preis III told the panel that few changes are expected after the station moves from its present location at the corner of York Road and Bosley Avenue.

The station, which is Baltimore County's busiest, will have two fire engines, one ladder truck, two advanced life support trucks and the vehicle used by the assistant divisional chief, according to Preis. One major change will be the additional set of bay doors which will enable the drivers to exit the station on Bosley Avenue and return via Courtland Avenue, Preis said.

"A lot of state of the art equipment are going to be in this station," Preis said.

New trees along Bosley are planned, along with a green space for staff to use, according to Steve Jarrett of A. Morton Thomas & Associates, a Baltimore civil engineering firm.

The building would meet the requirements for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, or LEED, a rating system/certification for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of green buildings. The firehouse's silver LEED design includes a green roof planted with sedum, grasses and other plants. Additional trees will be planted around the border of the county gas station already on the property.

A traffic signal controlled by the firehouse and a new cut in the median will be added to control traffic when the emergency vehicles roll out to respond to a call, Jarrett said.

"This is what we'd call a compact and efficient plan," he said.

Design Review Panel member William Monk suggested additional plantings were needed as this location is "a very prominent corner."

"We'll talk about that," Jarrett replied.

Before the panel voted, area residents raised concerns about the building's appearance, increased noise and traffic. David Martin, acting chair for the panel, reminded the audience of about 25 that the panel can make decisions only about the design.

Steve Nolan, speaking on behalf of the Courthouse Commons office development, urged traffic-calming measures along Bosley. "It's a bit of a speedway," Nolan said.

Noting that the office buildings serve as a buffer to Southland Hills, Nolan said "we're definitely concerned about the noise."

Preis said the station is busiest weekdays between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. when the most personnel are on duty. Ambulances answer about 3,000 calls a year with the fire trucks answering several thousand, he said, adding that about 20 percent of the time, trucks go out without using lights or siren.

"We work with the communities to try to mitigate as much noise as we can," Preis said.

Mike Ertel, of West Towson, was critical of the building's simple design.

"Everybody said the same thing. It's a nondescript building. It could easily be a Mr. Tire store or a Pep Boys," he said.

He said he recognized the building's utilitarian nature but said the building will be located in a prominent part of Towson. "We are going to look at this building for 50, 60 years," he said.

Before the panel voted on a motion to accept the firehouse design, panelist Mitchell Kellman defended the plan, calling it "elegantly designed."

"I like the idea that it's low-key," he said.