Although there was fierce opposition from the community, the Baltimore County Council on Monday unanimously approved a “planned unit development,” or PUD, for a large Royal Farms gas station at the corner of Burke Avenue and York Road in Towson.
But opponents say they are not done fighting.
A gas station was not allowed on the site because of zoning restrictions, so the developer, Caves Valley Partners, applied for a PUD, which is an avenue for the county to allow something that normally would not be acceptable.
“The purpose of a PUD is to provide flexibility in the application of the zoning requirements of the underlying zone in order to allow for more efficient use of the land,” according to the county’s website. “In exchange for this flexibility, PUD projects are required to provide a public benefit, a high quality of design, and be compatible with the neighborhood.”
Opponents said that a large gas station at what is supposed to be the gateway to Towson did not provide a benefit, and they said it was in direct opposition to the design guidelines that Towson recently implemented.
“The community will definitely keep fighting this project,” Beth Miller, a founder of the Green Towson Alliance, said in a statement.
“Unfortunately we do not have much faith in the development process. So far, the administration did not create the proper parameters for the request for proposals which resulted in the winning bid going to a gas station. Next, the planning department signed off in their preliminary review of the PUD application, indicating the project is consistent with the Master Plan and compatible with the neighborhood. I wrote a 7 page letter explaining how the project does neither. Now the County Council has approved a PUD Application that did not meet the threshold for a PUD which is providing a development of substantially higher quality than can be achieved by a conventional development. An attorney who lives in West Towson wrote a letter explaining how the PUD does not meet that threshhold. Several letters from attorneys explained to the Council that other considerations were not reasons to approve the PUD such as false claims by the developer that failure to get the PUD would constitute breach of contract or concerns over ‘lost’ revenue from sale of the property.
The Towson Gateway Protest group will continue to participate in the development process and intends to stop this project through all means possible.”
Councilman David Marks said that the decision to introduce the PUD was a challenging one, and he has said in the past that County Executive Kevin Kamenetz put pressure on him to move the project forward.
“I delayed further consideration of this proposal by seven months to try to find a compromise. While Caves Valley Partners did agree to reduce the number of fueling stations to 12, which is comparable to nearby gas stations, I was unhappy that the community’s requests to look at design and landscaping were not addressed. That is why the Design Review Panel will evaluate the plan, something the developer did not want,” Marks said in a statement. “This was a very difficult decision. There was no way to please everyone.”