3:00 PM EDT, July 25, 2012
I was surprised to read of the upcoming Baltimore County Council vote on rezoning the Solo Cup site in Owings Mills ("A boon for Owings Mills," July 19).
County Councilwoman Vicki Almond has spoken positively about the rezoning and the Foundry Row Shopping Center from the start. Yet when faced with the demands of her constituents to be kept informed of the process, as well as to have input into rezoning decisions, she stated that she is undecided.
It appears that she has political ties to former County Executive Jim Smith, and I believe her support for the rezoning is "unconditionally in favor of it" in part because Mr. Smith is involved, legally and financially, with the plans for Foundry Row. With such political ties, her vote will not reflect what is really the best for Baltimore County.
Preserving land that is zoned for business and industry — whether it involves manufacturing like the former Solo Cup products, or the latest and greatest health care and biotech research companies — is critical for Baltimore County. We cannot afford to lose that, and I hope that all council members are aware of this critical need.
Market studies have demonstrated that we already have an adequate supply of retail space in the Owings Mills area, particularly with the planned redevelopment of the mall and the new Metro Centre project. We need to keep the zoning for the land that is designated for the type of jobs that our community needs.
Let's not create more part-time retail. Instead, let's do a better job of attracting companies to our community that create the kind of higher-paying jobs that allow workers to raise families. The proposed development at Foundry Row does not reflect pure alignment with the County Master Plan; preserving the manufacturing zoning does.
Moreover, there does not appear to be evidence that the developers will finance the necessary road improvements. While they have pledged up to $7 million for the project, the projections for transportation improvements are estimated to be close to $50 million.
With the upcoming school year being the second consecutive year where teacher positions have been cut in Baltimore County, the costs in taxpayer dollars for the projected road improvements could be better spent elsewhere. Even if education funding and transportation funding are two separate areas, larger class sizes, which are the direct result of teacher cuts, should never come for the sake of new upscale retail development.
Finally, this decision demands the results of a rigorous traffic study, which would require a delay in the vote scheduled for Aug. 28. If we truly want to do what is best for the entire county we must delay the vote in order to consider all of the issues involved.
Felicia Stolusky, Owings Mills
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