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Bill would ease parking standards for Towson Circle property

Bill would ease parking standards for Towson Circle property
The Baltimore County Council on Feb. 9 was expected to consider a bill by Councilman David Marks aimed at easing parking limitations at what is currently Towson Circle. (File photo)

The Baltimore County Council on Feb. 9 was expected to consider a bill by Councilman David Marks aimed at easing parking limitations at what is currently Towson Circle.

Marks' bill would revise the front, rear and side yard setback requirements, the floor area ratio requirements and the building height requirements for "certain buildings" in the current CT (Commercial, Towson Core) zoning district. Marks said he introduced the bill mainly to help Retail Properties of America Inc., which owns and plans to redevelop Towson Circle, a property now anchored by Trader Joe's, Pier 1 Imports and Barnes & Noble bookstore.

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Retail Properties of America, an Illinois-based, shopping center-oriented real estate investment trust purchased Towson Circle in 2004. It now plans to add a 400-unit apartment tower and hotel. The property sits near the traffic circle at what was once the site of a Hutzler's department store.

Trader Joe's late last year announced plans to move to The Shops at Kenilworth mall in 2017. Pier 1 Imports announced in mid-January that it is closing its location at Towson Circle.

Marks has said the redevelopment of Towson Circle could improve an awkwardly situated zone, dubbed the "canyon" in a recent planning document for its below-grade parking and store entrances. Marks said his bill would treat differently any building that fronts the traffic circle, by not requiring the usual setbacks and by raising the maximum permitted building height from 1.5 to 1.75 times the maximum average height otherwise permitted in the CT district.

He said he is trying to help Retail Properties of America because the layout of the Towson Circle site is "unique" to the area.

Other changes called for in the bill include increasing the maximum allowable floor area ratio. Known as FAR, it's the square footage of a building divided by the square footage of the lot on which the building is located. FAR is used by local governments in zoning codes to determine the density of construction. Marks said raising the FAR in his bill is designed to increase density for the Retail Properties of America project.

Marks stressed that the redevelopment project would have to adhere to all open space requirements, and that Retail Properties of America would have to pay $2,000 per unit in open space waiver fees, unless the developer provides open space for the project.

The project also would be subject to scrutiny by the county Design Review Panel, Marks said.

Marks said he has heard of no opposition to his bill and that he expects the council to pass it.

The Baltimore Sun contributed to this story.

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