The following is an op-ed by Peta N. Richkus regarding the proposed Royal Farms gas…
Councilman David Marks introduced legislation tonight to stop the review process of a proposed Royal Farms in Towson, and a large crowd was on hand to cheer his efforts.
The bill to effectively kill the proposed 24-hour gas station at the corner of York Road and Bosley Avenue was not discussed by council members at the meeting, but many from the audience spoke out against the project.
Sen. Jim Brochin urged the council to respect “councilmanic courtesy” and defer to Marks’ wish to stop the project.
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.
Mark Lee, a West Towson resident, said he and other opponents of the project are prepared to fight until the project is dead.
Under the “councilmanic courtesy” that Brochin mentioned, council members generally defer to the wishes of the councilperson who represents the area in which a PUD is being considered. But in this case, that is not guaranteed.
Councilwoman Vicki Almond, who represents the western portion of Towson, said in a statement to the Flyer that “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.”
Marks countered at the time that “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.”
Towson resident Amy Rehkemper attended the meeting — and provided many of the signs displayed by audience members — and said afterward that if any council members vote against Marks’ wishes — and in favor of the Royal Farms — it will be “hugely telling of where their priorities lie.”
“From every angle you look at this it’s wrong,” she said. “It’s appalling to me that it’s gone this far.”
Marks said after Monday’s meeting that the PUD process was designed to get community input and that he has heard loudly and clearly that the community does not want the project.
The bill will be discussed at a work session at 2 PM on Aug. 1, and then there will be a vote on Aug. 7.