Circuit Court judge allows Red Maple Place affordable housing project to proceed, overturning Baltimore County appeals board

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A Baltimore County Circuit Court judge ruled Friday that developers can move forward with an affordable housing project near East Towson, overturning the county’s Board of Appeals decision to quash it.

The 56-unit, four-level Red Maple Place affordable housing project would span two lots between East Joppa Road and East Pennsylvania Avenue.


Councilman David Marks, a Perry Hall Republican whose district includes Towson, said he was “extremely disappointed by this decision.”

The homes at Red Maple Place would count toward the 1,000 affordable housing units in prosperous census tracts that Baltimore County must encourage developers to build over a period of 12 years, under a 2016 agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to correct decades of discrimination against Black families and people with disabilities. The county is providing a $2.1 million, 40-year loan for Red Maple Place.


Area residents have battled the county and Homes for America, the project’s developer, since the housing was approved in 2019, saying it’s environmentally unsuitable and another example of encroaching on a historically Black community in Baltimore County.

East Towson’s history dates to the 1850s, when it was founded by people formerly enslaved at the nearby Hampton Plantation. Over the decades it has shrunk due to development projects.

“The council’s intent was very clear and that was to influence this specific project,” Marks said. “I hope the community appeals.”

In October 2020, after the project was approved, the Baltimore County Council passed a resolution creating new barriers for the East Towson Design Review Panel Area, which, according to Friday’s ruling, the county’s Board of Appeals determined was enacted to stop the development project from moving forward.

In March 2021, Administrative Law Judge Maureen Murphy found that the resolution did not reconfigure the East Towson Community Conservation Area and that its design criteria would allow the Red Maple Place project to move forward.

The Baltimore County Board of Appeals overturned Murphy’s decision last July.

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Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Andrew M. Battista upheld Murphy’s opinion Friday.

“Logically, if the County Council wanted to stop this development with legislation, it could have been done so more clearly,” Battista wrote.


Terry Hickey, the director of the Baltimore County Department of Housing and Community Development, said Friday afternoon that his office is still reviewing the decision, but it’s clear that Battista has “legally determined it should move forward.”

Acknowledging the displacement of the East Towson community over time, Hickey said he feels an opportunity has been lost to embrace the project amid the debate.

“Typically, housing that is affordable for low- and moderate-income families is seen as a benefit in the racial equity discussion, not an intrusion,” he said. “I think East Towson, in its history, has had a number of intrusions against it,” but housing people can afford is typically seen as a benefit — “not a negative.”

Dana Johnson, the President and CEO of Homes for America, said in a statement Friday that her organization is pleased by the decision and looks forward to working with the surrounding community.

“We look forward to bringing high-quality, well-designed, affordable and market rate housing to the heart of Towson, where residents will have access to jobs, strong schools, recreation, health care and more,” Johnson said. “We also look forward to building a positive relationship with our neighbors and serving as an asset for the community.”