Towson residents were out in force today at a Baltimore County Council work session at which the controversial Royal Farms at York Road and Bosley Avenue was discussed. Nineteen people signed up to speak about the proposed project, and 17 of them spoke against the gas station. Two people — Steve Sibel, a partners at developer Caves Valley Partners, and Christopher Mudd, an attorney for Caves Valley — spoke in favor of the project.
Mudd has argued that the county already agreed to sell the land to Caves Valley for the project and that it can’t change its mind now.
Opponents of the project, however, note that the gas station is simply under review by the county at this point and that it is not until the PUD is approved that the contract can go into effect. A gas station is not allowed at that location under current zoning, so Caves Valley applied for a Planned Unit Development (PUD) that lets developers get around zoning requirements if they gain county approval. PUDs were intended to allow projects that would benefit the community even if they don’t mean zoning requirements.
The legislation that created PUDs says that the resolution to move the PUD forward can be amended within 90 days of the required community-input meeting. That meeting occurred on May 8 of this year. The video below shows a tenacious Towson resident, Amy Rehkemper, at that meeting trying to nail down whether Caves Valley was involved in the decision to cut down 30 trees at the site, which was in violation of the county resolution allowing review of the PUD.
Councilman David Marks submitted the original legislation that started the review process, but later soured on the project after the tree removal; the huge outcry from the community; the plan to not improve Bosley Avenue roads until after the Royal Farms project is complete; and the fact that opponents will sue over the issue and it will be in litigation for years to come.
When Sibel, of Caves Valley, testified, he implied that Marks only moved the PUD forward because he wanted Kevin Kamenetz’ administration to support converting property in Towson owned by the Radebaugh family into a park, and that once that was agreed to, Marks turned against the PUD.
“This is not the time for councilmanic courtesy,” Sibel said, referring to the practice of council members deferring to the wishes of the council member of the district affected in such cases. “This is a time for leadership and fairness, and I ask you to vote against this resolution.”
Beth Miller of the Green Towson Alliance, which opposes the Royal Farms, told the council she didn’t think it was true that Marks pulled the PUD because he got what he wanted with the Radebaugh property. But if the Council feels it needs to punish Marks over the issue, she said, “we beg them to please not punish the citizens of Towson at the same time. We are the ones who will be stuck with a terrible development.”
Marks said after the meeting that Sibel’s “insult-laden performance today demonstrates why Caves Valley Partners is loathed by so many in the community.”
“He is wrong — the County Executive committed to me in February that he would buy the [Radebaugh] property. I’d like to think that the more than 1,000 residents of Towson who supported the sale made the difference in getting it over the finish line,” Marks said.
Although the audience was vocal on their thoughts about the gas station on Tuesday, council members were largely quiet on the issue, and it is not clear if Marks will have the votes he needs to kill the project. The council is set to vote on the issue on Aug. 7.
The Towson Flyer