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Put the Proposed Royal Farms PUD Out of Its Misery (Op-ed)

The following is an op-ed by Peta N. Richkus regarding the proposed Royal Farms gas station at York Road and Bosley Avenue. Councilman David Marks has introduced legislation to kill the project, and the council will review the issue at its 2 PM work session on Aug. 1. They will then vote on Aug. 7. 

Councilwoman Vicki Almond was certainly correct when she said that being asked to vote against a project that is already in motion is “difficult.”

Nonetheless, I urge her and the rest of the County Council to stand with Councilman David Marks and the overwhelming number of district residents who — like me — are vehemently opposed to the Royal Farms project.

Unfortunately, the County’s handling of the Caves Valley Partners project proposed for the Bosley Avenue-York Road property violated the trust and the will of area residents at every turn. It will not “achieve ‘substantially, higher-quality development than a conventional development’ or provide a public benefit” and does not deserve to move forward. There are many reasons the proposed Royal Farms project is objectionable. Here are just a few:

– The financial and other assessments do not justify this project’s exemption from the new County Zoning Plan.

– Tree removal by the County without the appropriate notifications, permits, and replacement plan (per the Maryland Forest Conservation Act) before the sale of the property was complete, was done at taxpayers’ expense. Numerous specimen trees of 30″ or more in diameter were destroyed, in violation of the approved Resolution. Plans were laid to have more trees removed, having co-opted the Archdiocese, all without appropriate community or Council notification.

– There are already six gas stations within a mile of each other nearby.

– The Bosley/York  intersection is already a failed intersection, woefully under-designed for the burden of traffic it currently experiences. The Caves Valley proposal adds 12 gas pumps without regard to the resulting increase in traffic and the associated, additional costs to the County.

– The $50,000 pittance offered by Caves Valley as mitigation (“community benefits”) for the project’s numerous negative impacts is wholly inadequate. $50,000 is barely 0.6% of the council-approved sale of the 5.8-acre site to Caves Valley Partners for $8.3 million and ignores the true value of this gateway parcel to the County.

The PUD process is exactly that, a process. Let the upcoming Council vote be the end of it.

I applaud Councilman Marks for listening to his constituents, rethinking his position, and withdrawing his support of this ill-conceived project; some of his Councilmates have already said they will do so, but I urge the rest of the Council to continue their tradition of deferring to the local member on issues that affect his or her district.

The Council should vote to end further review of this controversial project. It detracts rather than adds to the Towson Gateway area and it is totally opposed by District 5 voters.

Or, let Caves Valley Partners be persuaded to withdraw the project from further consideration as other, better options are pursued.

Peta N. Richkus, retired, has lived in the 5th District for the past decade

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8 Comments on "Put the Proposed Royal Farms PUD Out of Its Misery (Op-ed)"

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towson resident
Ty Ford

Well said. After recently seeing what Coral Springs, Fl. has been able to achieve in terms of development, I’m hopeful that the Towson area can re-set its sights and come up with usages and designs that increase the property value for Towson.

Caves Valley and Mr. Kamenetz have shown that they simply don’t get it and, as you said, the trust has been broken and remains severely damaged. This is a game changer for Mr. Kamenetz’s hope for a gubernatorial race and any other politician who stands with him.

towson817

Thank you for this very well-written piece!

Towson resident and voter
Towson resident and voter
I agree with the balanced and well-thought-out reasons cited in this op-ed. I would also deeply appreciate such thoughtfulness by the Baltimore County Council on the Towson Gateway project, especially Councilwoman Vicki Almond, who is likely to run for county executive. The concerning issues before the council set a number of alarming precedents for similar projects, and undermine well-planned community development elsewhere in council districts and across the county. It is time to move on. Quickly, here’s why: 1. While concerns about contracts and plans are understandable, the Caves Valley Partners purchase offer was not a binding contract, and remains reliant on the Planned Unit Development (PUD) process and community input. As the Baltimore Sun editorial board and many others note, it is time to move on: The current circumventing of zoning restrictions; as well as dismissal of EPA environmental guidelines to prevent gas stations within 500 feet of schools; clear-cutting the county’s own forestry conservation laws and numerous mature, canopy trees; and an anti-pedestrian design that violates downtown Towson’s Master Plan, in the end, does not make sense. Baltimore Sun editorial: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/editorial/bs-ed-0703-royal-farms-20170629-story.html 2. Another developer has recently shown interest in bringing a financially productive longterm project for this site, vs. the planned $26,0000 or so a year in tax revenues. The current project is neither financially sound nor is a another large gas station and convenience store appropriate/quality development for downtown Towson, one of Baltimore County’s jewels. 3. There is national police-based evidence that 24-hour status is a primary… Read more »
WendyJ

Thank you, Peta, well said.

RacerX

Better check back with Councilman Marks at 2:00 – he may change his mind again! November is coming Councilman, tic toc, tic toc – or should I say flip flop, flip flop…..

Against the gas station
Against the gas station

Obviously RacerX does not understand the legal process of following the PUD process. To use the term “flip flop” shows RacerX does not understand that after the developers attorneys shameful performance at the community input meeting which clearly showed their lack of willingness to work with the community the councilman had 90 days from the meeting to revoke the PUD Soley on the basis of lack of cooperation and lying about who wrongly cut down the trees. RacerX …your choice of words only reveal your are one of the developer’s and county executives friends. It is their mantra. The denial of who ordered the trees to be cut down should shut down this whole process since the developer and our county executive have an undeniable relationship that gives bias for the developer and places the community at a huge disadvantage.

Towson Gal

It was a very smart move to listen to the people who have the votes. IMHO he’s not going to change his mind again. KK is staying quiet for a reason, not sure why Vicki Almond is so surprised. If she votes against Marks it will be career suicicide for her. She takes the public fall for KK who was heavily involved in starting this project and KK goes onto run for governor.