Local community associations are appealing a decision by an administrative law judge to grant a special exception allowing a Valvoline to be built at the intersection of Loch Raven Drive and Joppa Road.
The auto service station, planned for the site of the former First Mariner Bank, would represent a “huge step backwards” for the community, said Peter Moulder, vice president of the Associates of Loch Raven Village, one of the neighborhoods surrounding the site.
“We are one of the county’s older neighborhoods, and we are fighting to preserve, protect and defend, and keep our neighborhood vibrant,” Moulder said. “We just don’t think it will be helpful.”
Randy Kazazian, director of real estate for Mid Atlantic Lubes, did not immediately return a request for comment.
The Knettishall Community Association is also fighting the project, according to member Bryan Fischer.
Auto service stations are allowed by special exception on the property, which is zoned Business Local and is also in a Commercial Revitalization District. In a Nov. 2018 ruling, administrative law judge John Beverungen granted the request, saying the community had not provided evidence that would “establish the adverse effects would be more pronounced at this location than at some other [Business Local] zoned site within a revitalization district.”
A hearing for the appeal of the decision is scheduled for March 5.
Moulder disagreed with the judge, saying Valvoline will add “more noise, congestion and traffic at what is a bad intersection to begin with.”
In the administrative decision, Beverungen wrote that the intersection received a “D” grade on the 2018 Baltimore County Basic Services Transportation Map. The Valvoline will generate about 160 daily trips, a traffic engineer told the judge, saying that number is less than a bank would generate.
According to Moulder, the site once held a gas station, and when it was replaced by the bank he said people called it a “tremendous improvement.”
“Our point is if it was a tremendous improvement in 1999, it’d have to be a huge step backwards 20 years later to move into an auto service use.”
He also said the community objects because, in his view, the area is saturated with similar businesses.
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“There are nine other locations within a quarter of a mile in either direction today where you can get your oil changed,” Moulder said. “It’s not like there’s a crying need for another place to get your oil changed.”
Moulder said the community would prefer the First Mariner Bank building be retained and used for some kind of office space.
Fischer, a Knettishall resident and vice president of umbrella group Towson Communities Alliance, said the umbrella group cannot financially support the communities in their appeal. To help, the associations are accepting donations. The group has retained attorney Michael McCann to represent it in appeal proceedings.
“We’re not wealthy — we don’t have the same kind of deep pockets that other organizations do,” Fischer said.
“For a community association like us, legal fees could bankrupt us,” Moulder said.
Still, the communities plan to carry the appeals process as far as they can, he said.
“We feel like it’s important to draw a line in the sand,” Moulder said. “If you don’t take that step, next time someone sees an opportunity in this area for something that might not be good for the area … they’ll assume they can run roughshod over the association and local community because we won’t choose to fight it.”