Concerns about traffic, lack of parking and public safety dominated a public meeting regarding the called-for redevelopment of the corridor where Joppa Road intersects with Loch Raven Boulevard in the Loch Raven area.
County Councilman David Marks and Jordan Levine, a property owner in the area, have kick-started a task force to create strategies on how best to redevelop the area, which Marks said has been “neglected” compared to other parts of the county, like Towson and White Marsh.
“This is an older part of our suburban development, and it shows," Marks said during a community meeting hosted at Loch Raven High School to discuss the plan. About 50 people turned out to ask questions and share their concerns.
Levine, who owns a building off Loch Raven Boulevard where Ethan Allen and Total Wine & More are tenants, said the corridor’s location is great, but that “minor catalysts” are needed to spur redevelopment.
“Love it or hate it,” Levine said, “the Starbucks on the corner [which replaced the Bel-Loc Diner at the northeast corner of Joppa and Loch Raven] is a bit of a catalyst.”
Levine said he has seen the Starbucks crowded with customers on their computers and spending money in the community.
Marks and Levine highlighted the region’s accessibility to the Baltimore Beltway, natural resources like Loch Raven Reservoir, and nearby schools like Loch Raven High School, as major draws for the intersection.
But some in attendance said they had concerns that included a perceived uptick in crime in the area, with some saying they don’t even feel safe driving there. Data from the Baltimore County Police Department, Precinct 6, which includes the Loch Raven area, showed a 1.9% increase in total crime between the first half of 2018 and the first half of 2019. Between 2017 and 2018, the department reported a decrease in total crime of about 7%.
Others said the area needed more parking so that customers could get to shops. A few attendees mentioned the popular Pastore’s Italian Delly, a decades-old community take-out and grocer on Loch Raven Boulevard as difficult to access because there’s not much parking. Some suggested replacing currently vacant buildings with parking lots or garages.
“There’s clearly a lot of passion here,” said Cathi Forbes, who recently was appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan to fill the House of Delegates District 42A seat in the Towson area vacated by Stephen Lafferty. She said the night meeting was “a good starting point” and that she “definitely” will be following the conversations around redevelopment of the area.
Some pointed specifically to the hotels and motels in the area, including a Comfort Inn and a Days Inn, where a shooting took place in early September.
In response to those concerns, Marks said he was not going to “name names” but that he has been in conversations with some “major property owners” in the area to express interest in redevelopment.
Marks and Levine said there will be more task force meetings about the region, and creating a Facebook page that will be titled “Better Loch Raven,” and Marks said he hopes there will be recommendations by February.
"We’re not going to sit here and promise that everything is going to happen in the next couple of weeks or couple of months,” Levine said.
Marks said another town hall meeting hopefully will be held in February, and updates will be provided on the Facebook page.
Marks said that timeline would provide the task force ample time to work within the comprehensive zoning process that the county is undergoing and would allow him to seek capital funding in the county’s 2021 fiscal budget.