Community leaders and American Legion members took another opportunity Tuesday afternoon to voice their opposition to the contentious 101 York student housing complex.
While County Councilman David Marks and business leaders said the mixed-use project fits both the county Master Plan and the Walkable Towson Plan while addressing a need to house Towson University students, residents and legion members testifying at the May 13 Baltimore County Council work session took issue with the development's size and its impact on traffic and crime.
On April 21, Marks, who represents Towson, introduced the resolution to approve continued review of the planned unit development for 101 York. The council will vote on the measure at its May 22 meeting.
On Thursday, during the evening rush hour, residents and legion members will stage a protest and hand out fliers at the intersection of York Road and Burke Avenue, steps from the planned development site, part of the downtown parcel known as the Towson Triangle. The Triangle is bordered by York Road, Towsontown Boulevard and Bosley/West Burke avenues.
The project, which has been revised in response to community concerns, is now slated to house 611 Towson University students, 495 parking spaces and 9,300 square feet of retail on the ground level, with an option to lease 150 additional parking spaces from the Baltimore County Revenue Authority-owned garage adjoining the Towson Library. The changes added $15 million to the project's $60 million price tag.
"I've never worked on a development project as much as this one in my life, both in my time as a community leader and on the County Council," Marks said in discussing the bill before testimony Tuesday.
He added that he asked designers DMS Development to increase planned parking beyond a study's recommendations and add a bike rack, two Zipcar spots and a Towson University shuttle stop.
Business officials echoed Marks' words in support of the project, with Towson Chamber of Commerce President John Holman, of Towson, calling 101 York "the right project for the right place."
American Legion officials, however, are concerned about encroachment and environmental impacts on their adjacent York Road property, which the organization has owned since 1948. Jim Rebbert, the Towson post's former commander, testified that he worried what precedent 101 York would set for his organization if the PUD were allowed to move forward.
"Then, the Towson Triangle will be rezoned to high density. Next, our Towson Post would not fit the government's intent for the property. Finally, the Baltimore County Revenue Authority could forcibly take our property," Rebbert said. "We would become a parking lot used to accommodate the high density large structures which would completely engulf the Triangle."
Mike Parr, adjutant for the Sons of the American Legion, said the building's looming shadow over a nearby stream would cause plant death, erosion and flooding of the legion parking lot.
Residents have similar concerns, as well as walkability and the question of community benefit, a bar DMS officials plan to meet by supporting projects in nearby neighborhoods.
"The vast majority of the members of the Triangle committee believe the negative impacts far outweigh the community benefit," said Towson Triangle committee chair Ed Kilcullen. "Paying off neighborhood community associations, each of which oppose the project, is not the intended purpose of a PUD."
Greater Towson Council of Community Associations President Paul Hartman suggested that university officials plan construction of the rest of planned dorms in the West Village section of their campus before supporting more off-campus housing. Three TU officials were present, but did not testify at the work session.
"There's no question that that stretch of York Road needs redevelopment, we also need student housing, but this is not the right project for that area," Hartman said. "It just seems that this building is being shoehorned into a lot that's not big enough for it."