An administrative law judge will decide whether a Towson student housing project that's drawn criticism from neighbors and community members should go forward.
The $75 million project would accommodate more than 600 college students, mainly those attending nearby Towson University, and would include ground-floor retail space on its 2.74-acre site along York Road.
Neighbors say the proposal is too big, lacks adequate parking and would cause traffic headaches on York Road. County Administrative Law Judge John E. Beverungen began hearings Monday and will decide whether to approve zoning for 101 York.
Brian J. Murphy, an attorney for the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations, said the proposal is "a flawed project," and suggested using the student housing designation is a Trojan horse to push a development "into a place where it simply shouldn't be."
Developer David Schlachman of Towson-based DMS Development said his project fills a need for student housing in Towson.
The Baltimore County Council gave Schlachman the OK to pursue the project as a planned-unit development, a process that allows flexibility in zoning rules in exchange for the developer providing a benefit to the community. As part of the process, three community meetings were held last year. After Beverungen's decision, it could be appealed to the county's Board of Appeals.
DMS Development plans to pay for improvements to county-owned facilities including $10,000 for the Southland Hills park, $25,000 in the Burkleigh Square neighborhood and $20,000 in Towson Manor Village.
In exchange, Schlachman is seeking approval to build the project taller and closer to property lines than what's allowed under current zoning, to have less landscaping than what's required and to install larger signs than are now allowed. The project would be as high as 11 stories.
The plan calls for 248 apartments with monthly rents averaging $1,000. The plan includes a multi-level garage with nearly 500 spaces. Schlachman said if more parking is needed, he'll lease spaces at a nearby county-owned garage.
Members of the American Legion Post, directly north of the 101 York site, are concerned 101 York residents and visitors will park in the Legion lot. The post's attorney, J. Carroll Holzer, said membersalso don't like the idea of a building that size towering over their property.
Hearings are scheduled to continue through Thursday.
Paul Hartman, immediate past president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations, said in an interview that members of his group would rather see student housing built on campus instead of in the community.
"The community doesn't understand why this can't be built on campus," he said.
NOTE: An earlier version of this story erred in describing DMS' plan for "community benefit" contributions. It has been corrected here.