Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz is setting a 30-day deadline for a developer to meet with residents and devise a new proposal — likely without a gas station — for a high-profile site in downtown Towson.
Kamenetz said Friday that officials with Caves Valley Partners have agreed to meet with neighbors to consider a new proposal for the corner of York Road and Bosley Avenue after residents opposed plans for a Royal Farms convenience store and gas station and a retail center.
"We'll see if we can reach a resolution," said Arthur Adler, a partner with Caves Valley. "Hopefully it will work out."
Caves Valley's initial proposal for the 5.8-acre property, dubbed Towson Station, has roiled the local community and the Baltimore County Council for months.
The council gave the go-ahead in December for Towson Station to enter the county's planned-unit development process — a review that could allow for a gas station to be approved.
But after months of community opposition, Councilman David Marks, who represents Towson, asked the council to modify its approval to remove the possibility of gas pumps at the site. Among residents' complaints had been that a gas station was not suitable for a property many consider the "gateway" to Towson.
But the council tabled Marks' resolution at its meeting on Monday after receiving promises that Caves Valley would rethink its plan.
On Friday, Marks said Kamenetz's push for mediation "was prompted by the re-examination of this project that our office initiated."
"I am pleased the county executive has changed his position and listened to the Towson community and me," said Marks, a Perry Hall Republican.
The county-owned property formerly held a fire station and still houses a public works facility. In 2012 Kamenetz, a Democrat who is considering a run for governor, announced plans to sell it and two other county-owned tracts elsewhere. Caves Valley entered the winning bid of $8.3 million for the Towson tract.
Many Towson residents opposed to the gas station plan were further frustrated this spring, when the county cut down dozens of mature trees on the property.
Leaders of community groups who have led the opposition to the Royal Farms plan said they were interested to see the next steps.
"I'm always hopeful [that] when reasonable people come together we can come up with a solution that's agreeable to everyone," said Bryan Fischer, president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations, an umbrella civic group.
Beth Miller, a Towson resident involved with the group Save Towson's Gateway, said that organization is "cautiously optimistic that the true potential of this public land can be realized."
Wendy Jacobs, a leader with the Green Towson Alliance, said in a statement the group "believes strongly in collaboration among stakeholders to make a more beautiful and environmentally friendly Towson area."
Kamenetz's announcement Friday acknowledged that Caves Valley would likely seek to lower the sale price if the project no longer includes a gas station.
Any change to the price or terms of the sale contract would have to be approved by the County Council.
Kamenetz said he asked Council Chairman Tom Quirk, a Catonsville Democrat, to assist in the "mediation discussion" between Caves Valley and the community. No public meetings about the project have been announced.
Quirk said he got involved because he believes Marks mishandled the process and refused to meet with Caves Valley officials. Marks disputes that claim.
"I'm coming in from the outside trying to clean up David Marks' incompetent mess," Quirk said.
Marks defended his actions, saying he responded to community concerns about the site, especially when the county cut down the trees.
"There were more than two years of discussions on this property, and I initiated a review with very specific instructions. I stepped in when the county administration acted improperly," Marks said. "The council chair was silent when the county executive broke those conditions."
Marks said he hopes to be part of the discussions on new plans for the site, despite the words exchanged between him and Quirk.
"All the insults in the world will not bring back the trees that were destroyed, and I look forward to working with Councilman Quirk on options moving forward," he said.