Hopes riding on Monday meeting to end Royal Farms bid
May 7, 2017
Caves Valley bringing on partner to revive Towson Row
May 15, 2017
Show all

More trees to be felled for Towson Station; residents frustrated with lack of info

Christopher Mudd, attorney for Caves Valley, speaks to the crowd. CV partner Steve Sibel sits in front row, far right.

A collective gasp filled the room Monday evening when an attorney for the developer behind a Royal Farms at York Road and Bosley Avenue told a crowd of Towson residents that additional mature trees will be removed from the site. 

Rona Kobell, a Southland Hills resident, had asked Venable attorney Christopher Mudd if he could promise that developer Caves Valley Partners would keep the 36 trees, which are more than 20 feet tall, that currently separate Immaculate Conception School playing fields from the proposed Royal Farms gas station. 

“The proposal at this moment is to take all those trees down and put up a fence,” Mudd replied, to a wave of shouts from angry audience members. 

“Cities all over the world are spending taxpayer money to plant trees for environmental, economic, and health benefits. Why in the world is this developer tearing them down? Why is the county environmental department supporting that while simultaneously proclaiming they’re about sustainability?” Kobell said after the meeting. “If you care about the environment, the most cost-effective thing you can do is keep the healthy trees in place. Shrubs won’t provide the benefits.”

The crowd at the community-input meeting was already incensed that Baltimore County ordered 30 trees to be cut down without notice last month.

“Why do you need to take down those [additional] trees? Why take them down and then put small trees behind the building?” asked Karen Kahl, the parent of two ICS students. “Rather than ask why, I’m going to insist that you don’t take them down and provide better protection for that field.” 

As it turns out, the plan to remove the trees was approved by the Archdiocese of Baltimore, according to a May 2 letter to Caves Valley. 

Kahl said she wishes the  Archdiocese had taken a position “to support what’s in the best interest of our children’s health.” 

About 200 people attended the input meeting, held at the Sheppard Pratt Conference Center, and many expressed huge frustration with the presenters because of their lack of answers. 

“How does new gas station provide any benefit to the community?” asked one audience member, noting that county requirements state that this type of project must provide a community benefit. 

Mudd replied that “All I can say is, this is the proposal we have. I’m not sure you’re going to get an answer from any of us.” 

He also noted that county law allows a developer to provide a monetary contribution instead of presenting a project that itself is a benefit. The crowd roared in reply that they were only donating $50,000 for trails, some tree plantings and two speed signs for Towson neighborhoods. (Because zoning does not allow a gas station at the site, Caves Valley applied through a Planned Unit Development, or PUD, which allows exceptions to be made.) 

The West Towson community, which would receive the bulk of the $50,000, is opposed to the Royal Farms. 

“The fact the Kevin Kamenetz continues his partnership with [Caves Valley] is ridiculous,” said Carrie Cronin, president of the West Towson Neighborhood Association.
 
Rodgers Forge is one of the communities slated to receive a speed sign, and it, too, is opposed to the Towson Station project. 
 

Click to view concept plan

One frustrated speaker after another asked questions, but minimal details were provided. 

One person asked about an existing 10,000 gallon storage tank on the site that was not mentioned in the PUD application but that was discovered two years earlier in a developer-funded study. 

“I guess maybe it wasn’t required, I don’t know,” Mudd said. 

The same person also asked Caves Valley to share its Phase 1 report that details the condition of the underground tank. 

“The report is not required to be submitted as part of the process,” Mudd said, “and we won’t be submitting it as part of the process.” 

James Risser of Towson noted that the gas station would be adjacent to a school, a detention center and a church and that they could all be affected by the project. 

“To not do an environmental risk assessment is unconscionable,” he said. “When are you doing it? And when can we review it?” 

Mudd said any such study would have been done for internal planning and that “we are not making the reports available to you. At the hearing you can say the reasons you think it shouldn’t be approved.” (The PUD will be reviewed at a public hearing by an administrative law judge later in the process.)

Along with a Royal Farms, there would also be retail and restaurant space with outdoor seating. When asked what restaurants were going in, Mudd said they had signed leases but could not yet share any names. Mission BBQ has been rumored to be one of the tenants.

“This whole meeting is disingenuous if you already have leases,” said one audience member, while another asked who would want to eat outside while overlooking a gas station.

Near the end of the meeting, Southland Hills resident Jennifer Bolster told Caves Valley officials: “You need to start listening to us. We live here. We live here and we drive here, and we should have a say in this.” 

Arthur Adler, left, and Brandon Freel, Caves Valley’s director of development

Arthur Adler, a partner in Caves Valley, attended the meeting but did not speak to the audience. He also declined to answer any questions in the moments just before the meeting — including about the status of Towson Row, a Caves Valley project that has left a large vacant space in downtown Towson for more than a year.  

Councilman David Marks, who represents downtown Towson and who approved the PUD for review, did not attend the meeting but said he sent a member of his staff instead. 

“Under the separation of powers provision in the County Charter,” he said in an email, “Councilmembers do not attend community input meetings for development projects that are under the purview of the executive branch.”

–Kristine Henry

Towson Flyer
Towson Flyer

News tip? Story idea? We’d love to hear from you! info@towsonflyer.com

Leave your comment below

19 Comments on "More trees to be felled for Towson Station; residents frustrated with lack of info"

Email me when
avatar
Sort by:   newest | oldest
PNR

Thx for the detailed story, Kristine Henry.
The Council can, under the provisions of the PUD, vote to end further review of the project up to 90 days after the community input meeting.

In addition to separate discussion on this subject w/my Councilman, David Marks, I sent CoExec Kamenetz my laundry list of objections and copied the Councilmembers, urging them to vote within the 90 day window to end this project that adds no real value to the County and is so opposed by the District’s voters.

Councilman Marks tells me the clear-cutting of the trees – “in direct violation of the County Council’s resolution” – has further impacted his perspective… And that “(he) will have an announcement shortly about the future of this property.”

T J

Looks like an organized widespread boycott of all the tenants of both the the Gateway project and the Towson Row project is on the horizon. The only way to win a war is to make the other side howl. They were dumb enough to start it, now let’s see how dumb they are to continue it.

Wait ’til the lenders hear that a boycott of both projects is being organized. It will not take them long to pull their money off of the table.

Sam C

Do the protesters have a plan aside from another abandoned piece of prime real estate?

I’m asking this in all seriousness.

The bottom line
I’ve been thinking about where to go from here as well. That property does need to be revitalized. But recklessly going down a bad road, just because one’s already on it, doesn’t really solve the problem. Restaurants there would be great. So would a more upscale or architecturally well-designed project. But a large gas station across the street from another one? The removal of more than 60 canopy and buffer trees in an urban environment? (Half already taken down at taxpayer expense in violation of a county council vote and the intent of the county’s own Forestry Law). The developer, Caves Valley Partners–a big county campaign contributor–and Baltimore County administrators have rebuffed the community at nearly every turn: Neighbors have valid concerns about crime and light pollution related to 24/7 hour operation at the huge, 6-acre site? Tough luck, Caves Valley reps say. The community hopes for the retention of 36 remaining evergreens and other trees, which range from 20- to 90-feet tall? Naaaaah, the developers respond. And then there’s the unexpected clearing of buildings and other site work at additional taxpayer cost, even though the county agreement with the developer noted the property would be conveyed “as is?” This is just bad business all around. I’m not against thoughtful development—though the selling off of public land makes little sense in the long view–yet I wish Caves Valley would simply focus on finishing the Towson Row project, and fulfilling supposed promises there. Bottom line: What government grants another job to… Read more »
Roger

You may regret that wish when you find out how much the new 24″ sewer to Towson Row will cost county taxpayers.

Bottom Line 2

What a mess all around! More investigation needs to be done on all county-related cost and revenue figures.

Sam C

No where near as much as the lost revenue is costing us. Consider the lack of property, sales, and income taxes that we are missing because of this pit.

Towson Station and Towson Row are also drains on revenue, property values and quality of life.

Reap what you sow, Towson.

Joanne C. Simpson

Developers’ refusal to back off 24/7 convenience store hours is especially damaging to the community and the required PUD process. Here is an excellent objective report on issues re: consistent robberies and related crime at convenience stories, and prevention methods, geared to police departments nationwide. The primary factor in store robberies: being open 24-hours. ( See excerpt below and other details within this unbiased and well-referenced report.)

Center For Problem-Oriented Policing

“Factors Contributing to Convenience Store Robbery:

Understanding the factors that contribute to convenience store robbery will help you frame your own local analysis questions, determine good effectiveness measures, recognize key intervention points, and select appropriate responses.

The factors generally found to contribute to the incidence of convenience store robberies follow:

Store Characteristics

Operation hours

Operation hours are by far the strongest factor contributing to convenience story robbery, particularly for stores open 24 hours a day.25 Late evening to early morning hours carry a greater risk of being targeted, perhaps because fewer people are about—other customers, police, or passersby—who might intervene.”

http://www.popcenter.org/problems/robbery_convenience/

Concerned Citizen

I’m not sure which is worse, the feigned lack of knowledge of development requirements by the developer’s representatives or the actual lack of knowledge.

Merry Alterman
We attended the Community Input meeting on Monday, May 8th about the proposed Towson Station/Caves Valley Partners PUD. We were extremely disappointed by the disingenuous responses by Christopher Mudd, legal counsel for Caves Valley Partners (CVP) and the apparent limited interest from Arthur Adler of CVP (who attended but was looking at his cell phone most of the time and did not appear to be invested in the discussion). How can the County Council allow this PUD to proceed? This project is not in the interests of Towson and our community has voiced this opposition from the time this project was first proposed. Towson does not need another 24 hr gas station or fast food store that is not designed to make Towson a walkable, safe and environmentally friendly community. This fuel station (gasoline and diesel) will be within 600 feet of a sensitive population of school-aged children, will severely impact the church across the street, increase possibility of crime (the Falls Road Royal Farms is now only open business hours because of armed thefts), and significantly impact a failing traffic intersection. Mr. Mudd said: -“This (24 hour gas station with diesel fuel) is the proposal we have.” ; – a report about 10,000 gallon underground storage tank “was not required as part of the process and will not be submitted.”; -“Caves Valley feels it (a strip mall with 24 Hr gas station) is the nicest property design on all of York Road.” – leases have been signed with restaurants… Read more »
Pull the PUD!

Perfectly said! And 24/7 plus diesel does indeed equal truck stop. Your point about limited hours at convenience stores because of armed threats is especially telling.

Frustrated

Great story! The people running our county should be ashamed.

Joanne C. Simpson
Excellent and thorough story! A developer claim that doesn’t add up: Since Caves Valley Partners’ bid submission had requested an environmental report before they would proceed with the purchase, did the county pay for that study? The developer’s own Concept Plan notes the 2014 study, which identified the large underground tank, was performed by the ironically named Urban Green Environmental. Quote from bid document: “Without a Phase I or Phase II report, offerer does not know the scope of any remediation work that might be required on the site.” If the county was involved with this Phase I report, it should be public record. If it was not, what is Caves Valley afraid to expose by declining to make public? Either way a Phase II or similar report MUST be conducted on that site, and the results reported to Maryland environmental officials, or it appears the health and safety of the surrounding area is not being addressed under state and federal law. As noted more fully in a previous comment: Baltimore County’s track record on underground tanks is rather disastrous and does not bode well for fallout from this abandoned 10,000-gallon underground tank. County track record at fire station sites, EPA violations and fines: https://archive.epa.gov/epapages/newsroom_archive/newsreleases/00057c3268f7a6c985257490005e4070.html The county has grappled with other brownfield sites in Towson, including downtown at Towson City Center/One Investment Place, near Olympian Park. “In 1997, a 10,000-gallon heating oil UST was removed from the property; perforations were noted in the tank bottom once the UST was removed.… Read more »
Resident

Councilman David Marks has the power to pull this PUD–if this comes to fruition. we’ll all know who to blame for the traffic and toxic fumes.

Towson Resident

The developer’s attorney refused to answer, repeatedly, the question of who in the County government ordered the large trees to be cut down on the site. No one representing County government knew or would reply to this question either. We need to know who was behind that terrible decision.

Appalled at the Disregard
Appalled at the Disregard

Excellent story and great coverage of this issue. What a travesty 🙁 This co-opted PUD should be pulled as soon as possible. Community benefit? What a sad, sad joke.

Resident

Was Arthur Adler the one taking pictures?

West Towson Biz Owner
West Towson Biz Owner

Arthur Adler is the guy looking at his phone the whole time. Cant blame him for wanting to hide or disassociate himself form the whole shameful process. I see this thing dragging on and on and CVP is just going to end up with mud on their faces (more mud).

Towson Resident

The man in the front row taking pictures of the speakers was Robert (Bob) Latshaw, a real estate developer active in Towson.

wpDiscuz