My name is Mike Ertel and I am the current (unpaid volunteer) president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations (GTCCA). I have a day job and a family of five in Towson; and I'm serving because I care about Towson and its long-term viability.
GTCCA is the umbrella group for Towson's 30-plus neighborhoods from Knettishall on the east, Rodgers Forge and Anneslie to the South, Ruxton and Thornleigh to the west, and Hampton to the north. When we take a position on any issue, it is voted on by the delegates from each neighborhood. I, as president don't just make personal decisions on issues.
Towson is the largest unincorporated town in Maryland — we have no mayor or city manager. Even though we have a bigger population than most places in the county, our council district was taken away in 2001 and is now divided among four council districts. Those council members are from Perry Hall, Reisterstown, Oliver Beach and Hereford.
GTCCA is really the only group in Towson that questions growth and management of that growth. And I have found that when you question —and I mean any questioning — county government and/or developers in Baltimore County — you are quickly dismissed as complainers, negative, anti-development and even crazy.
Councilman David Marks was quoted in the Towson Times as saying that I complain, and he is right.
But it's not me complaining, Mr. Marks — it is the community. Here are some of the things, GTCCA has complained about:
• We didn't want a neighborhood playground and park taken away to build a fire station.
• We don't appreciate that citizens can't get even the most basic public information from Baltimore County without filing tedious PIA requests.
• We think Towson High needs immediate improvements to its grounds and physical plant.
• We do not want a 15-story building built on a property that is zoned for a four-story building with not enough of a stream buffer, parking and it is feet away from the failing intersection of York Road and Burke Avenue.
• We don't think it is fair that developers pay $0 open space fees in Towson, but have to pay them everywhere else in Baltimore County.
• We believe that we should have enough green and recreational space for our children to be able to play and practice sports (as they do everywhere else in the county). Our rec councils shouldn't have to pay $50,000 a year to rent private school fields just to run our programs.
• We believe that developers should be developing their projects based on long-term viability of those projects, which means providing enough parking for their residents, improving nearby parks, and supplying onsite green space and amenities. (Like developers do everywhere else).
• We believe that student housing should not be built adjacent to neighborhoods and prefer that it be on campus, where research indicates students who live on campus perform better academically and socially.
• We do not believe your baseless claims that building high-rent dorms is going to reduce student rentals in our neighborhoods. (Why would students leave a house where they split rent for $400 a month versus paying $1,000 a month in a student housing complex and then having to pay more money for the luxury of parking?)
• We want development in Towson progressing in a comprehensive manner with input from all stakeholders.
• We don't want massive, bright signs put on the tops of tall buildings in Towson.
• We believe Towson is a great place to live and we don't appreciate people who live elsewhere telling us what is best for us (by completely ignoring any input).
So yes, Mr. Marks, the complaining will continue until you and the county administration start working with the community.
Michael P. Ertel