Towson flood mitigation tops Planning Board priority list

Two Towson neighborhoods with flooding issues were made top priorities by the Baltimore County Planning Board last week as the board announced its recommendations for the 2014 capital budget.

The priorities on the list are flood mitigation in a pocket of West Towson including Round Oak Road, North Bend Road and Debaugh Avenue, as well as the Overbrook neighborhood near Idlewylde.

Councilman David Marks, who represents the 5th District including Towson and advised the residents as they lobbied the planning board, said the decision was a result of dedication on the citizens' part.

"Towson is a very engaged community, and this is what happens when people come out in force," Marks said.

Residents of both West Towson and Overbrook have lobbied the county to fix its flooding problems for decades. Marks and a county Department of Public Works representative met with residents along Round Oak Road late last year to make a plea for improvements.

The steep roads have no curbs, meaning water that runs south from West Joppa Road towards Charles Street seeps into the resident's yards and damages their homes.

The West Towson residents renewed their decades-long campaign last year, and dozens of residents attended a planning board meeting with testimony and video evidence of the problems.

"So many people have tried and failed and finally, all of us coming together, it's important and it's what community action is all about," West Towson resident Timothy Tenne said.

Marks said that Overbrook residents have also lobbied the county for years, and, while the road work has been buried on a list of upcoming projects, they too lobbied the planning board directly.

"They really made a compelling appeal to the planning board, and one thing I was thrilled about was the whole planning board from all over Baltimore County felt that those were real issues," said Nancy Hafford, executive director of the Towson Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Planning Board. "Those are the only two things that they said were top priority."

Exact prices for each project were not available, though Marks said the Overbrook project was "in the multi-million dollar range."

Marks said Overbrook residents would be content simply if engineering for the project began.

Edward Gilliss, chair of the Planning Board, said a committee made of all 15 Planning Board members decided on the recommendations, which will be part of the cover letter the board sends to the County Executive's office with its capital requests. Gilliss said the cover letter, including the recommendations, would go to a vote on Thursday, March 7.

The Planning Board recommendations would then be forwarded to the County Executive, who will consider the priorities when crafting the FY14 budget.

Gilliss said the county's ability to fund the projects would likely be the only obstacle.

"But I'm confident that...both the County Council and the administration welcome these kind of words of recommendation from the Planning Board," Gilliss said.

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