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Councilman seeks to prohibit the felling of mature trees on county property in Towson

County Councilman David Marks said Friday that he will introduce legislation April 17 to put a hold on the removal of mature trees from county-owned property in Towson and to direct county officials to establish guidelines for the cutting of mature or rare trees throughout the county.

Marks said he will file the legislation in response to Baltimore County officials last weekend cutting down a number of trees on a county-owned parcel at the intersection of York Road and Bosley Avenue, in Towson, that is the site of a proposed Royal Farms store and gas station that has sparked controversy.

"What I do not want to see happen is any more indiscriminate destruction of these large trees," Marks said Friday.

County officials authorized the removal of the trees from the 5.8 acre property on April 1, according to Marks. County officials said in an April 3 statement that they are demolishing a vacant building on the site and otherwise cleaning and preparing it for sale to Towson-based developer Caves Valley Partners, pursuant to a contract approved by the County Council in 2013.

Caves Valley has proposed building a fueling station, convenience store and two retail buildings on the site, according to plans the developer has submitted to county officials.

Some community groups and individuals in Towson have opposed the project as a potential source of pollution and increased traffic in downtown Towson, as well as an unsuitable use for the site, which is considered a kind of "gateway" into Towson from the north.

Caves Valley Partners has not yet taken ownership of the land and county officials still are considering the developer's plan for the site. The site currently contains a public works facility and a former fire station.

Officials of Caves Valley did not immediately return a request for comment on Marks' proposed bills Friday.

Baltimore County officials declined to comment on the bills.

Members of the Green Towson Alliance, an open-space advocacy group, performed a survey of the trees on the property in September and returned April 2 to see how many trees the county had removed. The group claims that officials cut down 30 trees, including seven with a diameter larger than 30 inches.

Residents held a rally at the site April 5 to protest the removal of the trees.

Earlier this week, Marks questioned why the county had cleared the site, rather than its future owners. He also said that cutting the trees violated language in a zoning resolution for the site that specifically was designed to protect the trees.

His proposal to place a moratorium on the removal of mature trees on publicly-owned land in downtown Towson, or within a mile of the downtown Towson district, would, in the short term, ensure that more trees aren't removed, Marks said Friday.

The bill also states that any trees that have been removed from publicly-owned land since Jan. 1 of this year must be replaced by five similar trees, to be planted in the downtown Towson district or within one quarter-mile of the district. Marks said he added that requirement to the proposed bill with the Bosley site in mind.

"We're never going to be able to replace those majestic, century-old trees, but we should at least make an effort to replant more trees than those that were taken down," Marks said.

Marks said he also will introduce a resolution that directs the county's Commission on Environmental Quality to develop county-wide standards for the identification, maintenance and preservation of so-called "specimen" trees, with a goal of protecting trees with a diameter wider than 30 inches, with "particular emphasis on such trees located on County-owned property."

Marks said he intends to introduce the bills at the April 17 County Council meeting meeting, which will be held at 6 p.m. at the Historic Courthouse in downtown Towson, located at 400 Washington Avenue.

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