Councilman David Marks said today he will not support a large Royal Farms gas station at the corner of York Road and Bosley Avenue. He had earlier introduced legislation to move the project forward for review — and said he was doing so under pressure from Kevin Kamenetz’ administration — but now wants to stop the project.
“I will introduce at the next County Council meeting a resolution that ends any further review of the gasoline station,” Marks said in a statement Wednesday.
And while he was the only council member who could have started the process of a Planned Unit Development (PUD) to make the gas station possible, because it is in his district, now that the process has started, he’ll need to convince other council members to go along with his new legislation. And it is not clear yet whether they will go along with him.
“First he was for it. Now he’s against it,” Kamenetz’ chief of staff, Don Mohler, said in a statement. “Flip-flopping doesn’t create jobs or spur economic development.”
Marks countered that “All the insults in the world won’t bring back the trees that Kevin Kamenetz’s administration destroyed at York and Bosley.”
The county had 30 trees removed from the site in April with no advance notice, even though the Royal Farms project had not been approved and the site’s future use was not secured. In May, an attorney for the developer, Caves Valley Partners, said that an additional three dozen trees separating the site from the Immaculate Conception fields. The tree removal has further outraged opponents of the Royal Farms.
A gas station is not allowed by the area’s zoning, so Caves Valley applied for the PUD to avoid having to comply with the zoning. Marks approved moving the PUD forward, saying he was doing so in part because the Kamenetz administration had threatened to withhold funds from his district if he didn’t — something they said is not true.
The site, formerly home to a fire station, also had interest from Harris Teeter and Whole Foods, though neither of those projects made it through the initial stages. Opponents of the Royal Farms note that it flies in the face of downtown Towson’s goal of becoming more pedestrian friendly and of utilizing stricter architectural standards.
The tax revenue from the Harris Teeter was projected to be more than $550,000 per year. The estimated annual tax revenue from the Royal Farms is just $26,000. That’s because property taxes are based on a building’s square footage, and a gas station’s building is small, even though its overall footprint is large.
In a statement, Marks said he was withdrawing support for the Royal Farms because of:
“Lack of Public Support. The original Planned Unit Development legislation, sponsored by then-County Councilman Kevin Kamenetz, emphasizes public input and collaboration. An overwhelming number of residents do not want this project to be built. How can its advocates claim with any credibility that this project meets a minimum of community support?
Violation of Council Resolution 113-16. Earlier this spring, the executive branch of government removed approximately 30 mature trees, with no public notice and in violation of clear direction from the County Council. The removal of the trees eliminated a major hurdle for the developer, whose attorney later said that even more trees will be destroyed should the project be approved.
Delayed Improvements to Bosley Avenue. The driving conditions on Bosley Avenue are a nightmare, yet when I asked the Deputy County Administrative Officer about plans to resurface the corridor, his response was that improvements would occur after Towson Station was finished. Given the likelihood of appeals, this means that Bosley Avenue will continue to deteriorate for at least two or three years.
Our transportation network is key to redevelopment in Downtown Towson. The continued collapse of Bosley Avenue will be a drag on all future growth—as well as the quality of life of established businesses and neighborhoods.
Long-Term Litigation. The contract of sale for this property requires approval of the Planned Unit Development by next year. That is highly unlikely. Towson Station is a lower-quality, and more controversial, project than other Planned Unit Developments that have been proposed in Towson. This project will be fought long and hard. Neighborhood associations should not have to exhaust tens of thousands of dollars opposing this project, and Baltimore County should not have to deal with the uncertainty of waiting years to receive profits from the sale of this land.
The County Executive was right in 2013 when he argued that the county property at York Road and Bosley Avenue was not being utilized for its highest and best use. But he was also right when, as a Councilman, he proposed the Planned Unit Development law that encourages high-quality developments with broad public support.
It is time to turn the page on the Royal Farms gasoline station.”