American Legion speaks against town center zoning proposal for Towson Triangle

Representatives of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations came to the Comprehensive Zoning Map Process public hearing on Tuesday evening to stake out their stance on myriad zoning issues in the 5th District, which includes Towson and Perry Hall.

And at the March 20 hearing, held at Perry Hall High School, members said their paramount goal was to preserve community attributes — even at the opposition of some business-oriented zoning requests being made as part of the 2012 CZMP.

"Our organization, among others, has been very supportive of efforts to revitalize our core," said David Kosak, president of the GTCCA. "However, we've done this in an effort to preserve our neighborhoods, which have always been the main attraction of Towson. We have been at the table for development, and we will continue to be at the table for development.

"However," he said, "we cannot allow the greedy agenda of the few to dictate that of many who live in our neighborhoods."

Several GTCCA representatives joined residents from Towson, Parkville, and Perry Hall who made their opinions known to the Planning Board as the board moves through the county's quadrennial rezoning process.

About 20 of the evening's 80 speakers were from the Towson area and spoke on several topics — chief among them the fate of the Towson Triangle.

The Triangle, located between Bosley Avenue, Towsontown Boulevard and York Road, currently houses several small businesses and the Towson Post 22 American Legion.

But as part of the CZMP, former Planning Board member Robert Latshaw submitted much of the property to be rezoned to become part of the town center (BM-TC) overlay that already exists in downtown Towson. He said the change is needed to unify the Towson core.

"The triangle is a very, very important part of the Towson redevelopment," Latshaw said. "We need to unite that (Towson University) campus with downtown Towson, just like Charlottesville has adopted UVA."

But at Tuesday's hearing, members of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations and the American Legion spoke out against the zoning change.

Jim Rebbert, commander of American Legion Towson Post 22 said the change would be "in direct conflict with the Towson community plan that was adopted by the County Council in 1992."

He said that plan states that, "boundaries of the existing BM-CT district ... shall not be allowed to expand during the life of this plan."

Rebbert also said there are concerns that since the American Legion and other existing businesses would not fit the designated use for the town center overlay, it might be possible for the government to declare the land is not being used property — and take it over.

"We would become a parking lot used to accommodate the high-density structures, which would completely engulf the triangle," he said.

Paul Hartman, vice president of the GTCCA, said great lengths have been taken to ensure the local residential and business communities have been involved with the development of Towson in years past.

"Largely, the (town center) district has not been proposed by any of these groups," he said.

And Paul Moran, who represents the American Legion on a committee Councilman David Marks appointed and tasked with deciding the Triangle's fate, said the committee respected the Legion's wishes and believes it should remain at its current site.

In other issues, the GTCCA opposed a request of Charles Brooks, whose law firm, Brooks & Kosloski, submitted several properties on the west side of the 600 block of Bosley Avenue to be upzoned from its current residential office zoning so that structures comparable to those elsewhere on Bosley could be built.

Paul Shipley, who addressed the board on behalf of a family member whose residence on Bosley Avenue was to be affected, said his family opposed the change because of increased taxes, and because of increased pressure they would feel from neighbors who want to develop.

Shipley was joined in opposition by Stephanie Keene, president of the West Towson Neighborhood Association, and Mike Ertel, a past president of the GTCCA.

"(They are) basically telling us they want to build a minivan, but they're looking for tractor truck zoning," Ertel said. "We feel like we're signing a blank check for somebody to built a much larger facility, yet they're not telling us what they're building."

Elsewhere, two residents who live near Kenilworth — Andrea Mullen and Trish Mayhugh — spoke out against changes that would allow for a high-rise apartment building and more retail space in that area. Lorrie Geiss said the GTCCA supported no change to the properties.

After the Planning Board hears residents' testimonies in all seven council districts this month, they will use the month of April for work sessions before the County Council holds their own hearings in June.

The council will review the testimonies and Planning recommendations, and must vote on any changes by Sept. 16, 2012.

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