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Towson

Negotiators: New plan for Towson parcel likely will have no Royal Farms, gas pumps

Officials say they are drafting a new plan for the corner of York Road and Bosley Avenue, in Towson, shown here, that will not include a Royal Farms store or gas pumps.

A revised development plan for the corner of York Road and Bosley Avenue in Towson likely will not include a Royal Farms store or gas pumps — two features that some neighbors of the parcel vehemently oppose in the existing plan for the site — according to Baltimore County Council Chairman Tom Quirk and officials of the site's Towson-based developer, Caves Valley Partners.

"I think we have a deal on the table right now where there will be no Royal Farms — no gas station," Quirk said this week. Quirk has been leading negotiations on a new plan for the site that involves input from neighbors, community activists and Caves Valley officials.

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Caves Valley has a contract to purchase the 5.8-acre, county-owned parcel in Towson for $8.3 million. However, its proposal to develop the parcel into commercial retail centered around a Royal Farms gas station stirred vocal and organized opposition from community members who say the plan is wrong for the site and will increase noise, crime and pollution in the area.

Quirk said in an interview this week that the county's contract with the developer would have to be amended and a lower purchase negotiated to make up for the lack of the gas station. From there, a revised plan for the project would be sent to the county's Development Review Committee, which is responsible for reviewing and approving development in the county.

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"In other words, we're going to throw it right back to the people again and let the people work through it," said Quirk, a Democrat who represents Catonsville.

In a statement Thursday, Arthur Adler, Caves Valley's managing partner, said the developer is making progress toward reaching a compromise that might include striking the gas station from its plans.

"Removal of the gas station portion of the project, which was part of our initial proposal and was required to be included under our approved contract, is something we are currently discussing and open to as part of a compromise we are working towards with community leadership and [Quirk]," Adler said in the statement.

Caves Valley is pursuing "a strong tenant mix that will enhance the dining and retail offerings and overall appearance of York Road," Adler said, adding that lease agreements with "fast casual and family-friendly restaurant tenants" should be announced soon.

"We are committed to continuing discussions with the community and county leadership and are confident we can develop a solution that meets the needs of all parties and promotes a stronger, more vibrant Towson," Adler said in the statement.

The proposal for the Royal Farms has sparked controversy in Towson since before the council approved the sale of the property to Caves Valley in 2013.

Baltimore County Councilman David Marks initially supported moving forward with a review of the project as a planned unit development, or PUD. The regulatory measure, introduced by Marks and approved by the council in December, allowed Caves Valley to build gas pumps on the site, which was necessary as such pumps are not allowed under the land's zoning. In return, Caves Valley was to pay for improvements to the area.

In June, Marks, a Republican who represents Towson, proposed a resolution to remove gas pumps from the approved use of the site by altering the PUD, a decision he said was made in part because of Baltimore County's removal of mature trees from the site in the spring, which the PUD prohibited. The resolution, if passed, likely would have torpedoed the gas station plan.

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Quirk introduced a motion at the council's Aug. 7 meeting to table Marks' resolution. The council voted 4-3 along party lines to table the motion, with the Democrats voting to shelve the measure and the Republicans voting to keep it alive.

At the Aug. 7 meeting Quirk said he had been negotiating a potentially new plan for the parcel with County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and officials of Caves Valley. Quirk said he took over the negotiations after relations between the developer and Marks soured — a claim Marks disputes.

On Aug. 11, Kamenetz issued the negotiators a 30-day deadline to draft a new proposal.

Over the past several days, Quirk and Caves Valley officials have met with community members to discuss new plans for the site, Quirk said.

Greater Towson Council of Community Associations member Paul Hartman said he met with the group Friday and discussed removing the gas station and offering a lower purchase price for the property. The umbrella group represents 50 community associations in Towson and its representatives have been vocal opponents of the project as it was proposed.

"It seems like that's what Councilman Marks' latest resolution was to do," Hartman said. "Even though it got tabled it seems that's the result he was trying to get. I think it's probable his efforts precipitated this change in direction for Caves Valley."

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Marks said he was pleased that a plan without a gas station is being discussed.

"Make no mistake about it," Marks said. "We would never have gotten here if the community didn't make its concerns known and if our office had not introduced the second County Council resolution. At the end of the day, I am just happy to bring closure to this needlessly controversial project."

GTCCA president Bryan Fischer and co-vice president Mike Ertel said they met with Quirk and Caves Valley officials on Aug. 14 and were told plans for the site would be reconfigured without a gas station.

It is unclear whether changes for the site would have to be approved by the County Council or if the parcel would need to be rebid.

Any changes to the county's sales contract would have to be approved by the County Council, said Baltimore County spokeswoman Ellen Kobler.

Officials of Royal Farms could not immediately be reached for comment.

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Baltimore Sun Media Group reporter Jon Bleiweis contributed to this story.

This story has been updated to reflect additional information provided by Baltimore County.




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