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Special construction design review proposed for commercial area of Rodgers Forge, Anneslie

Residents from the neighborhoods surrounding a proposed Starbucks at the intersection of York Road and Regester Avenue held a Dec. 9 rally at the corner to protest the inclusion of a planned drive-through at the coffee shop.
Residents from the neighborhoods surrounding a proposed Starbucks at the intersection of York Road and Regester Avenue held a Dec. 9 rally at the corner to protest the inclusion of a planned drive-through at the coffee shop. (File photo by Rachael Pacella / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Reacting in part to community opposition to a drive-through window at a planned Starbucks near Rodgers Forge and Anneslie, a Baltimore County Council member is proposing that all new construction in a commercial area of York Road in south Towson face additional scrutiny by a county panel of architects and engineers.

David Marks introduced a resolution Jan. 3 to create a special district for the commercial area along York Road, between Dumbarton Road and Windwood Road, in which all proposed new construction would be subject to review by Baltimore County's Design Review Panel, a board of nine architectural and engineering experts appointed by the County Executive whose mission is to encourage design excellence in building projects within designated areas of the county. The panel acts in a consulting capacity to the county's Administrative Law Judge and county agencies, who ultimately approve or reject projects.

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The review process would not apply to the alteration of existing buildings in the corridor as long as the footprint of the building is not changed, Marks said. The resolution is prospective, applying to future construction, and not projects in the corridor that county officials have already approved, including a planned Starbucks at the corner of York Road and Regester Avenue that has encountered resistance from residents of Rodgers Forge, Anneslie and Stoneleigh.

Residents of Rodgers Forge, Stoneleigh and Anneslie rallied this afternoon at the location of a proposed Starbucks coffee shop in Towson to show their objection to a drive-through planned for the property.

The coffee shop, which is slated to replace a former bank and office building, would have an entrance on York Road and an exit onto Regester Avenue, and would include a drive-through.

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Residents say they are concerned that cars exiting from the proposed drive-through window, along with the additional traffic the shop would engender, could become a danger to local students who pass the spot on their way to and from Dumbarton Middle School. Opponents also say that they did not hear about the Starbucks plan until after county officials had approved it and are calling on the project's developer to remove the planned drive-through window.

The Jan. 3 resolution is partially motivated by the backlash regarding the Starbucks, said Marks, a Republican from Perry Hall who represents Towson. He added that he is seeking to ensure the overall quality in development in the commercial area near Rodgers Forge and Anneslie.

"I would argue that the York Road corridor just north of Baltimore City is one of the most attractive and stable areas in all of metropolitan Baltimore," Marks said.

Kris Henry, president of the Rodgers Forge Community Association, said in an email that the association's board has not yet had the opportunity to discuss the legislation, but generally speaking "anything that makes it harder for developers to build projects that don't make sense for our neighborhood is a good thing," she added.

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The Greater Towson Council of Community Associations, an umbrella organization that unites more than 30 communities in the greater Towson area, elected 35-year-old Bryan Fischer, of Knettishall, as its new president Dec. 15.

"This area has lots of charming little shops, and people in Rodgers Forge love living in a walkable community. The last thing we want to see are a bunch of drive-throughs that fly in the face of what makes our neighborhood great, so we hope this resolution will be one step in the right direction."

The Design Review Panel requirement will give the public opportunity to comment on projects during panel meetings, Marks said.

Proposed new construction in the downtown Towson core is also subject to review by the panel because of a bill Marks proposed last year. The council passed that bill, which created the Towson Overlay District. Two weeks ago, the council passed several Marks-proposed amendments to the district that Marks said were designed to allow Towson Circle developer AvalonBay to redevelop the parcel under the new zoning standards, while also allowing Towson Row developer Caves Valley Partners to change plans for the $350 million project while remaining grandfathered in to the old zoning law.

Portions of the Loch Raven Boulevard corridor also are subject to the review of the design panel.



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