Opponents of a proposed commercial and retail development in downtown Towson that is centered around a Royal Farms gas station have organized a letter writing campaign aimed at stopping the project.
The effort seeks to convince Baltimore County Councilman David Marks, who represents Towson, to pull the plug on the proposed development by moving to amend a regulatory measure the development must have to move forward, said Sharon Walker, a Towson resident who organized the campaign.
The campaign by the Towson Gateway Planning Group began earlier this month and asks members of 33 Towson-area community associations to send letters to Marks asking him to amend the measure.
The campaign's core group includes about 15 people who live and work in Towson, Walker said.
"I felt this was important because a lot of my neighbors who are smart, aware people believe [the proposed Royal Farms] is a done deal and it's not, but time is running out," said Walker, who is also a member of the West Towson Neighborhood Association. "I really wanted to get that message out, that if you care about this it's not a done deal completely."
The 5.8-acre site on which the development is proposed, known as Towson Station, is owned by Baltimore County. Though the County Council has approved the sale of the parcel to Towson-based developer, Caves Valley Partners, for $8.3 million, that sale has not yet been finalized.
Caves Valley has proposed building two retail and restaurant buildings and a Royal Farms convenience store with a 12-pump gas station at the site.
Opponents of the development say the stretch of York Road is a "gateway" to downtown Towson and that a gas station at the intersection does not adequately reflect the community's wishes.
In October, Marks submitted a planned unit development, commonly known as a PUD, to move the project forward.
A PUD is a county regulatory process that allows applicants to develop a property outside of its typical zoning use if it will achieve "substantially, higher-quality development than a conventional development" or provide a public benefit. It must be submitted by the council member in whose district the project is proposed to be located.
As part of the PUD, Caves Valley would pay $50,000 to improve the West Towson Trail, plant trees in West Towson and install solar-powered speed display signs on Stevenson Road, west of York Road, and on Stevenson Lane, east of York Road.
Despite much opposition, the County Council voted to set the conditions for the planned unit development in December, though a PUD is ultimately approved or rejected by an administrative law judge after all its conditions have been met, Marks said.
To prevent the project from moving forward, Marks must submit a resolution to the County Council to amend or modify the PUD it passed in December.
According to the Baltimore County code, the County Council may introduce a resolution to amend or modify a PUD within 90 days after the date of the last community input meeting on a project — which in the case of the proposed Royal Farms was May 8 — meaning that Marks has until Aug. 6 to decide if he will submit such a resolution.
Marks, a Republican, confirmed that his office is receiving the letters and said he is considering his options, but some residents say that is not enough.
"David Marks is within a rock and a hard place," Burkleigh Square Community Association president Greg Bauer said. "He can't make anyone happy."
Bauer said his association received the planning group's letter last week and that residents of his community are sending the letter to Marks, as requested.
"They're asking people to express their opinions about it, most of which are negative," Bauer said. "The powers that be think they can ignore everybody. I've been to a number of meetings on Royal Farms and I've not heard one community benefit offered."