The developer of the much-debated 101 York, a proposed student housing and commercial development, has agreed to withdraw the project for consideration at the request of Baltimore County Councilman David Marks.
Marks said the project, previously proposed at 13 stories tall, has been substantially revised in the past month to the point where it would be 20 stories, and, therefore, is much different than the version that the County Council and the public had been considering in the county's community input process.
Marks in a June 27 letter to DMS Development asked DMS founder and principal David Schlachman to withdraw the proposal. Marks said he hopes the developer and 101 York opponents — including the nearby American Legion and the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations — can reach a compromise that would allow the community to support the project.
"I am concerned about the sudden changes in scale and magnitude for this project. For this reason, I am requesting that DMS Development immediately withdraw this proposal," Marks wrote.
"I will again reach out to the community and the American Legion in the hopes of reaching a compromise," Schlachman wrote back in an undated response that Marks said he received Monday, June 29.
Plans for the mixed-use project on 2.74 acres, with parking and access to York Road and Burke Avenue, appeared to have advanced in April when Marks, who represents Towson, introduced a resolution to approve the continued review of a proposed planned unit development for the project.
At the time, the project was revised upward to 13 stories and called for additional parking, bike racks, a stop for the proposed Towson circulator, changes in architecture and a community benefit package that would have added $15 million to the original $60 million cost.
That proposed revision, which DMS Executive Director Wendy Crites said at the time came in response to neighbors' concerns, called for 611 students or 40 more beds than previously planned; another level of parking, bringing the number of spaces to 495; 9,300 square feet of retail on the ground level; and the leasing of 150 additional parking spaces from the Baltimore County Library garage. It was supported by Nancy Hafford, executive director of the Towson Chamber of Commerce, who said at the time, "It makes sense. Towson University has grown by leaps and bounds over the last 15 to 20 years."
But parking remained a concern for the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations, which also took exception to the height of the project.
"It's just massive," said then-GTCCA President Paul Hartman.
Marks' resolution, which the County Council passed May 21, gives the developer the option to build even higher, and also changed the review process over the objections of community leaders, allowing DMS to seek approval from the county's Design Review Panel, instead of a county administrative law judge.
Marks now appears to be balking at the new height of the project.
"I'm fine with the 13-story plan, but not 20," he said.
The Design Review Panel is scheduled to meet next on July 8.
Marks said the project, which has aleady been through three community input meetings, needs consensus support to move forward.
"I am frustrated that the three parties associated with this project (DMS, the American Legion and the GTCCA) cannot reach a compromise," Marks wrote in his letter to DMS.
Hafford said the Chamber of Commerce board voted to support the project when it was proposed at 13 stories, but she has not brought it back to the board to take a position on it at 20 stories, and doesn't plan to for the time being.
"The councilman has made it clear to (DMS) that 20 stories is a little too high," Hafford said. "We have never discussed, as a chamber, 20 stories, so I can't make a call on the 20 stories until I meet with my board. We're going to let the developer and the community talk with each other and see if they can make things happen. There's no reason to call a special meeting."
Greater Towson Committee Executive Director Katie Chasney Pinheiro said in an email that the committee supported DMS and its original PUD.
"It is a travesty that the community continues to hold this development hostage while a dilapidated and dangerous piece of undeveloped land sits on York Road at the entrance of Towson's core.," Pinheiro added.
She said the committeee was not consulted on new plans for a 20-story building, and would not comment until the committee has seen the plans.
The Greater Towson Council,of Community Associations has not taken a formal position and meets next on July 16, but President Mike Ertel lambasted the latest proposal, which he said has increased in height from 11 stories in October 2013 to 20 stories now, with about 800 beds for students. He said that far exceeds the height for such buildings in the Towson Walkable Plan, which calls for buildings that are 2-to-6 stories tall and have off-street paths for bicyclists and pedestrians.
"From the beginning, the GTCCA has articulated that the 101 York project is too dense for the small site where it is being proposed," he said in an email Monday. "No effort to scale the proposal back has ever been considered.In fact, the project has only seemed to grow over time."
Ertel's predecessor, Hartman, said that from the GTCCA members he has been in contact with, "The consensus is that it's not an improvement — in fact, it's going in the wrong direction."
Carroll Holzer, the attorney representing the American Legion, could not be reached for comment. He was on vacation, his office said.