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Joshua Glikin, past president of the West Towson Neighborhood Association, hold an artist's rendering of the Towson Row development that was handed to him by an attorney for the developer during a hearing before a Baltimore County administrative law judge on Thursday.
Joshua Glikin, past president of the West Towson Neighborhood Association, hold an artist's rendering of the Towson Row development that was handed to him by an attorney for the developer during a hearing before a Baltimore County administrative law judge on Thursday. (Staff photo by Larry Perl)

Opponents of a lack of green space or higher waiver fees in plans for Towson Row told a Baltimore County administrative law judge at a hearing Thursday that they were not there to try to scuttle the mixed-use development, which they like overall, but rather to draw attention to the need for more open space in the downtown core of Towson.

But they also signaled that they are considering taking their fight back to the County Council, because the hearing judge is not expected to rule on the issue of whether waiver fees should be higher. They said they are also considering appealing to Baltimore County Circuit Court.

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"We may," said Mike Ertel, president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations.

Ertel was in the audience of about 30 people in the county's Jefferson Building as Caves Valley Partners sought approval from Judge John Beverungen of its plans for the $350 million Towson Row, which would include a 170-room hotel, an underground parking garage, a 200,000 square feet office tower, 600 housing units — roughly half dormitory rooms for college students — and 100,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space, including a Whole Foods grocer as an anchor of the development.

The project also calls for two new access roads, including one between Chesapeake Avenue and Towsontown Boulevard.

While Caves Valley Partners attorney Christopher Mudd appeared at one table before Beverungen, attorney Joshua Glikin, past president of the West Towson Neighborhood Association appeared at the other. He said the West Towson community is concerned about two main issues: the impact of the project on local traffic and an open space waiver fee that is set by the county government at $55,000 for the project, based on a resolution that the County Council passed in 2000.

"Those are the two issues we really need to take into consideration," Greg Bauer, president of the Burkleigh Square Community Association, who attended the hearing, said during a break in the hearing.

Glikin and Ertel said the waiver fee is outdated.

"It's 15 years old," Glikin said during the break. He and Ertel said $55,000 as an open space waiver fee for a project like Towson Row might have been acceptable at that time, when the economy was worse and the county was trying to spur development, but the money is inadequate now, when Towson's urban area is growing at a breakneck pace.

County officials testified at the hearing that Caves Valley Partners would have had to provide 14 acres of open space for a 6-acre development under the current county formula, so the county approved the developer's request for a waiver that required payment of $55,000.

County Councilman David Marks, a Republican who represents Towson, said he and Councilman Tom Quirk, a Democrat who represents Catonsville, hope to introduce a bill in September to hike open space waiver fees by $2,000 to $2,500 per housing unit in such developments. But they said that a sticking point is whether such an increase would be retroactively applied to project like Towson Row that are already in the approval process pipeline.

"I think the prevailing sentiment [among council members] is to grandfather [existing] projects in, but boost the fees for future development," Marks said.

Despite calling to raise the fee amount and questioning traffic and parking issues, Glikin told the judge, "My purpose today isn't to come and be the opposition to this project. We look forward to a great new entrance to Towson. I guess you could call us the protestants. But we're not just here to make hay and maker it difficult for [Caves Valley Partners]."

"Overall, I think the project is great," Bauer said. "[It will] bring it more business, bring in more taxes."

Beverungen said he expects to rule within two weeks.

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