In the latest twist of fate for a very controversial gas station and convenience store proposed for Towson, county lawmakers voted not to take any decisive action last night.
Members of the Baltimore County Council voted 4-3 to table a vote on a resolution that would have barred developers from constructing a 12-pump gas station at the corner of Bosley Avenue and York Road. Councilman David Marks had proposed the measure blocking the inclusion of any pumps at the location, which would have effectively made it a shiny petroleum-less 24-hour convenience store instead.
Many Towson residents had supported his bill, citing fears that adding yet another gas station in the area would create more traffic congestion in an already-crowded thoroughfare. In fact, one group called Save Towson’s Gateway that opposes the project (and supported Marks’ bill) has launched a petition against the gas station, and reportedly came out in full force at the council meeting.
ABC2 reports members “shouted, booed, and started an impromptu rally” outside after the 4-3 vote to table Marks’ resolution.
At issue here is the type of building that would go there at the corner. The land isn’t zoned for gas pumps, but developer Caves Valley Partners (see Cross Street Market, Stadium Square and Towson Row, among others) applied for a “Planned Unit Development” that would exempt the plan from the zoning requirement if developers can show it would contribute substantially higher value to the area.
Supporters of the project argue it would do just that, creating a new taxable revenue source for the county where an old fire station was recently demolished.
The county council actually approved construction of the Royal Farms there in December, but that was something of a formality since the PUD has to move through the county’s separate approval process.
In a video posted to YouTube by the Towson Flyer, Councilman Tom Quirk explains that he and other lawmakers had “extensive conversations” with Caves Valley, Royal Farms and other stakeholders this past weekend to renegotiate the plans for the site. “All parties are looking for a win-win solution” for the community, Royal Farms and the developers, he said.
He then motioned to table the vote, earning majority support from his three Democratic colleagues and inciting jeers from the audience, many of whom then walked out.
Marks and his two fellow Republicans on the council voted against tabling. Marks said in a statement via Facebook today that he was “not privy to secret negotiations that were supposedly carried out this weekend,” and objected to their decision.
He also jumped on another sticking point with the proposed project: trees. This past spring, the county government cut down 30 trees on the property, which Marks said the council had originally barred under “strict parameters” for the proposal.
Marks today pointed the finger at County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, saying his “staff then violated those restrictions by destroying 30 mature trees at the intersection.” Marks had notably supported the plan back in December, but changed his mind about it this summer after the trees were removed.
The council’s vote to table doesn’t equate to approval for the project. Rather, the plan will remain under review while lawmakers, developers, Royal Farms and county officials try to negotiate a plan that they hope will prove profitable for the county without upsetting too many residents. (The profitable component will likely make gas pumps a must-have.)
Whatever PUD plan emerges will go before an administrative law judge for ultimate approval. Marks said he thinks the snafu with the trees from this spring will make it “far less likely” a judge will sign off on the project.
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