A proposal to build a cluster of apartments, restaurants and offices at the edge of Lake Roland Park has pitted neighbors in nearby Baltimore County communities against one another.
Save Lake Roland says it wants to prevent "irresponsible" development near a park known for hiking and biking trails and a dog park. The group is urging nearby residents to protest the project along Falls Road in Bare Hills.
Members, also represented by the Ruxton Riderwood Lake Roland Area Improvement Association, have called for a special meeting of the association Wednesday night to voice concerns over density, traffic and impact to the environment.
"This development sounds large, tall and awfully close to the lake," said Ruxton resident David Cromwell, a physician. The park is "a beautiful sanctuary so close to all of us who live in this neighborhood. The thought of having a large, mixed-used development adjacent to and visible from the park doesn't sound like a good idea."
He and other area residents say they are alarmed the association's board has backed the Village of Lake Roland, planned as a six-story building with 150 apartments, a four-story parking garage and a Main Street-style shopping center of about 50,000 square feet. They want a chance to take a position on the project by voting at the meeting at 7 p.m. at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Ruxton, and to direct the association board and executive committee to act accordingly.
But the association's leaders say such a step would be premature because the developer, Baltimore-based Vanguard Retail Property Development, still needs to go through the county's development review process.
"Until that time, there is no development proposal to support or to oppose," the group's president, Clark Parriott, said in a June 30 letter. He called on members to attend Wednesday's meeting and "cast your votes consistent with the position of the board on each issue raised by the small faction of members who have requested this meeting."
Parriott could not be reached for comment and association representatives did not respond to requests for comment. The board signed a restrictive covenant agreement with the developer last August that it says supports "improved " rezoning and places restrictions on building height and uses such as big box stores.
Vanguard, which builds shopping centers anchored by supermarkets, bought the six-acre parcel just north of the city in March 2016 for $4.25 million. It's currently home to stores such as Falls Road Running and offices. The project would replace the mulch business Hollins Organic Products.
The Baltimore County Council approved the developer's request for a rezoning in August, and in January the developer applied to build under the Planned Unit Development process often used for mixed-use developments.
The developer has been working with the community association, park representatives and surrounding businesses for more than two years, Vanguard spokeswoman Ann Beegle said, and "we believe we have collectively come up with the best plan for the property."
Mark R. Fetting, the retired CEO of Legg Mason Inc. whose family has lived in the area for several generations, started Save Lake Roland after he became concerned about the project and its development through the PUD process.
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Fetting and Save Lake Roland are particularly worried about the impact on the city-owned park, which the county manages and upgraded several years ago. He said nearly 300 people have either signed petitions or contacted Councilwoman Vicki Almond's office in opposition.
"Most of the use of PUDS are to cut corners, and this site needs existing regulations reinforced if not bolstered because the park is so special," Fetting said. "We just feel because of how much progress we've made within the park, we ought to have the same standards of development adjacent to the park."
Opponents believe recent modifications by the developer, including moving the apartments away from the park property line and removing parking from park land, don't go far enough. They would like to see the residential portion scaled back, and no building taller than four stories.
Almond, who would need to introduce a resolution to enable the PUD designation, said Tuesday she has no plans to do so until a compromise can be reached.
"I have been listening to both sides, and I really asked everyone to take a step back and kind of regroup," Almond said. "It's a matter of coming to some kind of compromise where we can have a good development with community support."