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Towson Manor Park not 'off the table,' but other sites may be considered

Kevin KamenetzDavid Marks

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz reportedly told residents from Towson Manor Village and the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations on Friday that a proposal to build a new fire station on the site of Towson Manor Park was "not a done deal."

Yet the county executive wouldn't rule it out, either, according to Paul Hartman, vice president of the GTCCA.

"He didn't want to take it off the table," said Hartman, one of several residents who attended the meeting Friday, Dec. 7, with the county executive in Towson.

The session gave citizens and Kamenetz a chance to talk about the proposal, which surfaced this week, to sell the county's existing firehouse in Towson, located on York Road, and use the proceeds to build a new station at Towson Manor Park, at Towsontown Boulevard and Virginia Avenue.

The county executive had reportedly pitched the idea as a way to also fund air conditioning at Dumbarton Middle School.

On Thursday night, dozens of residents attended a meeting to oppose the plan, saying they didn't want to lose the park, and also criticizing what they saw as a lack of communication with the community on the matter.

Hartman said at the Friday meeting, Kamenetz, "understood the reason why people are upset," and said other sites may be considered.

"The park's not completely off the table, but clearly they're looking at other sites, more suitable sites," said 5th District County Councilman David Marks, who also attended the Friday meeting. "I think there are other locations, but there may be hurdles with them. It's difficult to find the perfect spot."

In addition to Kamenetz and Marks, Hartman said the meeting was attended by county Chief of Staff Don Mohler, GTCCA members David Kosak and Ed Kilcullen, East Towson Improvement Association representative Adelaide Bentley and others.

"We did ask him specifically to take (the park) off the table," he said.

And, while Kamenetz declined to do so, community members were told, "this is not a done deal — he actually said that. He said it's not the final word," Hartman said.

Hartman said Kamenetz discussed his study of county properties as a way to fund needed capital projects. Ellen Kobler, a spokeswoman for the county, said the administration is conducting a comprehensive review of county properties, and he hopes to release a report on the findings next week.

"There's going to be outreach once we're at the point that we can discuss the findings," she said.

Hartman said he thinks the idea of utilizing excess properties, generally, "is worth exploring — within reason."

But Towson Manor Park is not a good option, he said. He said representatives tried to convey that, "the value of this park is very great to those who use it, and Towson really has a shortage of green space."

"That park was built with quite a bit of work by residents," Hartman said. "A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into it."

Marks called the Friday session "a very thoughtful dialogue."

"These are big decisions," he said. "The county doesn't have a lot of resources, it's a difficult economy ... (and) Towson is an area that needs investment in roads, school and infrastructure."

And while Marks said he understands residents' concern about the park not being the right spot for a new fire station, he said selling the York Road fire station site is a good idea, regardless of where a new station lands.

"Personally, I think the sale of the fire station (site) is a good thing," he said. "It's good to get land on private tax rolls, and that fire station does need to be replaced. Most people agree with that."

After the meeting, Marks added that, "I believe the end result will be a fire station at a suitable location and the retention of the Towson Manor Village Park, which we all want to save."

Staff writer Jon Meoli contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Kevin KamenetzDavid Marks
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