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Vicki Almond undecided on Royal Farms in Towson

Rendering of Royal Farms at York & Bosley

Now that Councilman David Marks has said he does not support a proposed Royal Farms at York Road and Bosley Avenue, it is up to his colleagues on the council to decide whether to back his new position, or to move ahead with the project.

Although Marks was the only one who could have gotten the ball rolling on the project in the first place, he is now not able to kill it without a majority on the council agreeing to do so.

Vicki Almond

Councilwoman Vicki Almond’s district includes a large chunk of western Towson, though it does not include the York-Bosley intersection. The Democrat said in a statement Thursday that she’s not sure how she will vote.

“Based on how many times Councilman Marks has changed his mind on this project, I am waiting until August to see what the Council will actually be voting on,” she said.

A gas station is not allowed by the area’s zoning, so developer Caves Valley Partners applied for a PUD (Planned Unit Development) to avoid having to comply with the zoning. Despite strong opposition for adjacent neighborhoods, Marks approved moving the PUD forward.

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.

“For the record, my mind changed once it became apparent that the PUD process was tainted and unable to produce a collaboratively designed project,” Marks said. “I stood by Councilwoman Almond when there was immense pressure to override her zoning on Foundry Row. I respect Councilwoman Almond and know she will do the right thing.”

Almond and other council members will be the focus of a strong campaign to halt the project.

A group called Save Towson’s Gateway said in a statement, “We agree it is time to stop this project that is despised by the community, has already caused environmental harm and promises to only further degrade air quality near a school while bringing traffic, crime and trash to a key gateway to our County Seat.  We applaud Councilman Marks’ call for better planning on this highly visible site.”

Almond has received some campaign funds from Caves Valley in the past, but she was also seen as an adversary of theirs when she backed developer Greenberg Gibbons’ plan to develop Foundry Row in Owings Mills over the objection of then-rival Caves Valley. (The two firms are now partnering on the long-stalled Towson Row.)

After that decision, Caves Valley and others poured money into a campaign fund called A Better Baltimore County, which supported, among others, Almond’s 2014 primary opponent, Jon Herbst.

“The people in my district know that I stood up to Caves Valley Partners when I permitted the incredible Foundry Row development, and campaign finance records show that they funded my primary opponent in the 2014 election,” Almond said.

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1 Comment on "Vicki Almond undecided on Royal Farms in Towson"

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Excellent political reporting. In-depth and informative, the way journalism should be.

Baltimore County Councilmember Vicki Almond, as well as councilmembers Cathy Bevins and Tom Quirk, should be just as outraged that the tree protection resolution they voted for regarding the Towson Gateway site was violated by the county itself when 30 trees were unexpectedly taken down in April.

The PUD process is meant to work with the community, yet it’s clear that numerous insufficient and even combative responses from Caves Valley to many community concerns–including 24-hour operation, truck diesel, specimen tree removal, and failure to disclose environmental issues on the public site–has made this longer a valid PUD to pursue.

Current zoning at York and Bosley precludes a gas station there for a reason. Going around that, under the PUD, to force through a project that clearly does not provide a wider public benefit is simply bad government.

In the end, the council should not keep going down a bad path, which would set a dangerous precedent for future similar issues elsewhere in the county. Is this what we would expect from Vicki Almond as a county executive?

This is not a Towson quality project, as the review process has revealed. Let’s move on.