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Kamenetz says Royal Farms developer will negotiate, but future of project unclear

Kevin Kamenetz

Updated at 4:10 pm

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz’ office said Friday that he has “persuaded” the developer of a controversial Royal Farms in Towson to “consider a change in the proposed project that would eliminate the gas station component of the development plan.”

His statement came days after the County Council tabled a resolution from Councilman David Marks, who represents the area, that would have prevented gas pumps from going in at the York Road and Bosley Avenue site.

“Over the weekend I’ve had extensive conversations with Caves Valley Partners, with Royal Farms, with the County Executive’s office, and all parties over the weekend have agreed to re-look at this agreement, re-look at the negotiation — re-look at the possibility of even eliminating the gas stations,” Council President Tom Quirk said Monday when he made the motion to table the bill.

Quirk, who represents the Catonsville, said in an interview Friday that Marks refused to meet with Caves Valley or its land-use attorney in the weeks leading up to the vote.

“The whole process has been mismanaged. The fact of the matter is, when you negotiate, even if you’re upset with one of the parties, you still need to talk to both of the parties,” Quirk said. “My role is to be transparent, to make sure the negotiation is restarted, and look at all the options and find a more workable plan. I’m coming in from the outside, so I don’t have have all the battle wounds that both sides have.”

Marks said his aide has no record of calls from Caves Valley or its attorney in the weeks prior to the vote.

“Ask anyone from the community who was involved in the meetings last fall — ask them how Caves Valley talked to the community. They were really belligerent and they were never interested in removing the gas station,” he said.

Marks added that “if anyone mismanaged this process it was the County Executive’s office. I set very clear restrictions on the project that were ignored by the County Executive’s office.”

Despite the new talk of coming to a mutually acceptable deal, Fronda Cohen, a spokeswoman for Kamenetz, said it would be premature to assume there will not ultimately be a gas station at the site.

“Hopefully [Caves Valley and gas station opponents] can work something out that will be beneficial to the community,” Cohen said. “But that discussion is what will be happening.”

Caves Valley has already met with Towson residents as part of a required community-input meeting, during which many residents were frustrated by the developer’s lack of communication.

“Save Towson’s Gateway is cautiously optimistic that the true potential of this public land can be realized,” said Beth Miller, one of the leaders of the group opposing the gas station. 

Kamenetz’ statement said he has asked Quirk to “assist in the mediation discussion between the developer and the community [with] a deadline of 30 days to pursue the mediation.” It also said that Caves Valley will likely reduce the amount it will offer for the site if it can’t have gas pumps. Its current offer for the land is $8.3 million.

The negotiation has not yet been scheduled, Cohen said. Ultimately the County Council would need to approve a revised contract.

Residents outraged as county clears 30 trees at old fire station

“I am happy that the County Executive has changed his position in response to the Towson community, Senator [Jim] Brochin, and me,” Marks said in a phone call Friday. “Make no mistake about it, this was driven by the re-examination of the project that our office initiated. Councilman Quirk is a friend and I look forward to working with him on options for the property.”

Proposed Royal Farms

 

“Green Towson Alliance believes strongly in collaboration among stakeholders to make a more beautiful and environmentally friendly Towson area,” said Wendy Jacobs, one of the GTA’s leaders.
Arthur Adler of Caves Valley could not be reached for comment.

The Royal Farms project is different than most commercial real estate deals in the county because in this case, a developer wants to put a gas station in an area in which zoning does not allow a gas station. To get around zoning laws, a developer can utilize a Planned Unit Development, or PUD.

Monday vote on Royal Farms PUD will be a high-stakes nail biter

PUDs must provide a community benefit — although the law does not specify that the project itself must provide a benefit; instead, a developer can offer other unrelated “benefits” to the community. In this case, Caves Valley said it would donate $50,000 for trail improvements, some tree plantings and two speed signs for Towson neighborhoods.

RELATED: 

Caves Valley wins over County Council; Royal Farms development will advance

Opponents of Royal Farms tell county council “we are not going to give up”

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9 Comments on "Kamenetz says Royal Farms developer will negotiate, but future of project unclear"

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Looking for Balance

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz should indeed follow through on his promise for this project to be revised, and especially for the gas station to be removed. Otherwise Mr. Kamenetz is not listening to his constituents, and area voters.

To make this a battle to undermine Councilman David Marks is shallow. We are counting on Council Members Tom Quirk, Vicki Almond and others to work with Marks and members of the community in a mature, positive, and productive manner to improve the quality of this project.

Even for those who would like to avoid a lawsuit, the various violations of the PUD and related resolutions and laws–both in intent and in procedure–has already set up the circumstances for an ongoing legal embroilment that serves none of the parties involved. (Opponents have every right to pursue.) The other issue to amend in order to avoid negative community fall-out would be the proposed 24-hour operating schedule of any retail there, a proven “primary factor” in robberies, according to national police sources.

Again, I have nothing against Caves Valley and look forward to the Towson Row project. The hi-rise in Towson that houses Caves Valley’s offices, Cunningham’s restaurant, and WTMD is a lovely addition to downtown as well, though some greenery or a water feature in the second-story plaza would also be good design.

I thinks that’s mostly what Towson business people and residents really want: Smart development and good design that will foster a vibrant, safe, and walkable future for downtown Towson.

Sam C

I like how some of the same people suing DMS for the 101 York project are saying that exact same project would be acceptable at this location.

Regardless of the project, we can bank on two things:
1) lawsuit from anti-change Towson no matter the proposal
2) weak leadership and flip flopping from Marks

That property is doomed for the same fate as Towson Triangle. What a waste….

Jim Haynes

This Royal Farms would be an eyesore in Camden N.J. It’s not that anyone expects a new Parthenon to be built on this tract of land. Based on the current mix of county politics and the aesthetic standards of suburban Maryland developers we can only hope when they are done Towson will not look like Hyattsville. One lesson here is that when county government cut down a bit over two dozen mature trees, they were irreparably gone. It will be generations before the seedlings planted in their place will cast summer shade. If anyone over the age of six ever manages to hear the sound of wind in tree leaves, he or she had best go to Oregon Ridge.

Sam C

Its a shame the trees were removed. It’s also a shame these trees were neglected to the point where invasives species covered them and removal was an actual option.

I never saw kids hanging around that corner listening to the wind move through the trees. I never saw anyone on that corner, as a matter of fact. For years it’s looked more like a war zone or abandoned town than suburban Maryland.

Ron Gallop

If Caves Valley had communicated with the community all along, we wouldn’t have had to go through all of this. And Quirk could have let the community know that he was in communication with all the other parties (but not us) as well.

Communication, as always, or lack thereof, was a major part of the problem.

Terry Lynch

Councilman Marks is to be commended for listening to his constituents. He said that he initially supported Caves Valley’s position because Kamenetz threatened other things he wanted for his constituents if he didn’t go along. We all know that after Marks changed his mind, Kamenetz ordered four weak Council people to block what Marks wanted.

RacerX

No Councilman – make no mistake about it – you and you alone submitted this terrible PUD and you and you alone are responsible for everything that has transpired since then. Maybe you should just thank Councilman Quirk for trying to bail you out – and maybe you should try taking responsibility for your actions for once instead of blaming everybody else.

Towson Mom

Start back at the beginning and put the blame squarely where it belongs – Kevin Kamenetz. He thinks he can “do” gov’t better by swapping out excess county land without working with or communicating with his constituents or caring for the environment. No one wanted a new fire station to begin with and don’t try to throw air conditioning schools in as a smoke screen. Remember all this in 2018 for the Governor’s race and vote for the other guy!

Sam C

I think the new fire station is a great addition to Towson’s core. It’s appropriate in size and location for the area it serves. Clearly not everyone is afraid of change. Dare I say the silent vast majority does not share the xenophobia, anti change views of the petulant few.

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