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Lack of parking remains a concern on 101 York project

DMS Development, which is planning to build the 101 York mixed-use student housing and retail project in Towson, met with residents on Monday night for a second input meeting on the planned unit development. This rendering shows a detail of the project.
DMS Development, which is planning to build the 101 York mixed-use student housing and retail project in Towson, met with residents on Monday night for a second input meeting on the planned unit development. This rendering shows a detail of the project. (Rendering courtesy DMS Development)

The controversial 101 York development faced another round of community questions Monday and again the student housing project's density and parking causing a ripple effect to nearby neighborhoods were top issues.

The community input meeting held at the Towson Library was the second for the project by DMS Development.

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The mixed-use housing and retail project, which is being proposed as a planned unit development (PUD) under county zoning law, means the County Council must vote on it separately from the quadrennial rezoning process, and it doesn't necessarily have to adhere to existing zoning for the property.

Through its PUD process, the county allows development of a higher density than a property's zoning allows, provided there is a demonstrated community need and benefit. Given the building's close proximity to Towson University, the developers see it as a natural place to build an off-campus dorm that can draw students out of residential neighborhoods.

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Construction on the $75 million development could break ground on the parcel of land at 101 York Road as soon as next summer with the first move-ins perhaps by September 2017.

Some of the project's most outspoken neighbors — representatives of next-door Towson's American Legion post —were not on hand due to the recent death of a former post commander. To that end, county officials have scheduled a rare third community input meeting to accommodate them at the Jefferson Building, Room 104, 105 W. Chesapeake Ave. at 7 p.m. on Oct. 28.

"I've been doing this since 1981. I've never attended a third [community input meeting] so it gives you a sense of the community interest and involvement in this process," Scott Barhight, an attorney for the development, told residents.

The 13-story project (with two levels of parking above ground and two more below ground) will include 248 units and 611 beds, but only 495 total parking spaces. Some parking spaces will serve street-level retail and not be within the gated, four-level resident garage.

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However, David Schlachman, founder and principal of DMS, said planners had added more than 100 spaces beyond what would be required of a project with that number of beds.

"We built a whole new deck of parking," he said after the contentious 90-minute meeting.

While leasing rates for the complex's 11 floors of apartments are not yet available, Barhight said rates would be competitive with similar space on the Towson University campus. At Millennium Hall at Towson University, students currently each pay $8,800 to lease space in apartments from late August to late May. Parking at 101 York will cost residents $500 per year.

"It's an expensive price … and let's face it, who's paying?" Schlachman said. "[Parents] are going to pay $12,000, but they're not going to pay $500 to give their kids secure parking?"

Most of the units at 101 York will be two-bedroom apartments, with some four-bedroom and a handful of studio and one-bedroom apartments.

Ed Kilcullen, a Towson Manor Village resident and former Greater Towson Council of Community Associations president, asserted that developers had classified the project as a dormitory so as to alleviate parking requirements. But the result of that would mean students would park their cars on nearby community streets.

Other residents suggested that the developers could switch gears years later and call the development an apartment building, which would require even more parking spaces.

"If we wanted to have a building that was open to everyone, then we would have to design a project that met those requirements," Barhight said. A new designation for the building would require a new land use permit and a new round of community hearings, he said.

Fundamentally, residents don't have a problem with providing more housing for Towson University students, said current GTCCA President Paul Hartman. They would just rather it be on campus, and not near a dangerous, heavily trafficked intersection at York Road and Burke Avenue, and also in a location making it easy for students to walk home through residents' backyards with the university's tacit blessing.

"The Towson University master plan shows more student housing in West Village," Hartman said, referencing the area of campus on Osler Drive by Millennium Hall, where four new residence halls, managed by the same company, Capstone On-Campus, have opened in recent years.

Hartman suggested that Schlachman could have partnered with the university as Capstone did to build housing on campus. Schlachman, however, has owned parts of the lot slated for 101 York dating back to 2005, Schlachman said during the meeting.

"I owned the land and there's going to be a demand for off-campus housing," Schlachman said. "There's always going to be a demand for off-campus housing and I don't see a better location than ours."

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