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Community questions density of proposed Towson Mews

Community questions density of proposed Towson Mews
A crowd of about 50 people at the East Towson Carver Community Center Monday night peppered project officials with questions about the size of he proposed townhouse development, Towson Mews, and the potential influx of new neighbors, cars and traffic. (Rendering courtesy Evergreene Cos.)

Towson Mews, a proposed development of 35 townhouses with two-car garages on 1.2 acres in East Towson, received a chilly reception at a community input meeting Monday night.

Many residents of the historically black community, within walking distance of downtown Towson, questioned the density of the project, for which the developer, Evergreene Cos., of Chantilly, Va., is seeking Baltimore County Council approval as a planned unit development. The roughly 2,000-square-foot, three-story townhouses with three bedrooms, 2 1/2 bathrooms and rear-loading garages, would be located off Towsontown Boulevard at Jefferson and East Pennsylvania avenues, within sight of the new Cinemark movie theater complex.

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A crowd of about 50 people at the East Towson Carver Community Center peppered project officials with questions about the size of the project and the potential influx of new neighbors, cars and traffic.

"That's a lot of people and a lot going on in a small space, when we already have a large movie theater," said lifelong resident Sherry Evans. And she said on Sundays, she already has trouble parking at her nearby Methodist church, St. James A.U.M.P on Jefferson Avenue.

The audience murmured its approval when one man, who would not give his name, said the project should be scaled down to 25 townhouses. The audience got testy when Patricia Malone, an attorney representing Evergreene, responded, "I don't anticipate that happening."

Josh Mastrangelo, president of Evergreene's Maryland and Coastal Division, defended Malone, saying, "The property owner is looking for a certain value. When you start taking units away, this project wouldn't work. We would probably withdraw."

Project officials noted that the townhouses themselves would take up only about half of the acreage, with a lot of green space built in.

Residents also questioned the lack of a traffic study. Project officials said the county doesn't require one for a project of Towson Mews' size.

There was also concern over plans for neighborhood improvements that the county requires as part of the approval process for planned unit developments. In the case of Towson Mews, Evergreene would make a financial contribution of $50,000 to improve Adelaide Bentley Park and Towson Manor Village Park. Some residents at the meeting complained that the latter is not in the immediate neighborhood.

Project officials speculated that Towson Manor Village Park might have been chosen as one of the parks closest to the development.

Darryl Putty, the county's project manager for Towson Mews, said he did not know why the park was chosen. County Councilman David Marks, who represents the area, did not attend the meeting.

The leery feedback at the community input meeting contrasted with one held after the project was announced in mid-May. Marks said then that he had heard no complaints about the project.

"It's a nice transition to historic East Towson," Marks said at the time, explaining that the property links the commercial downtown and East Towson residential areas.

The proposal has the backing of the Greater Towson Committee, which sent a letter July 15 to Marks.

To make way for Towson Mews, Daft McCune Walker, an engineering firm, would move from its office building at 200 E. Pennsylvania to another site, the firm's chairman, Tom Repsher said in May.

In addition, a historic, renovated log cabin that Repsher owns, known as The Parker House, was moved last month to a new site about a block away, on nearby Fairmount Avenue.

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