A Battle Royale is playing out over a proposed Royal Farms store and gas station in Towson. Opponents claim it’s an example of developers running roughshod in Baltimore County.
About 200 people packed a community meeting Monday night to complain that the development would increase traffic at an already busy intersection near their homes and a nearby school.
The store would be part of a development called Towson Station at the corner of York Road and Bosley Avenue north of the Towson roundabout, on land owned by the county.
The developer, Caves Valley Partners, wants to buy the land and put the Royal Farms, complete with gas pumps, there. But the zoning on the land doesn’t allow for the pumps, so Caves Valley has to jump through some hoops to get that changed. One of those hoops was the community meeting.
Opponents got more upset when last month the county tore down a building on the site and cut down around 30 trees. They questioned why the county spent taxpayers’ money to help prepare the property for a developer. And they charge there are plans to cut down more trees.
At the meeting, Towson resident Amy Rehkemper quizzed Caves Valley’s attorney Christopher Mudd about whether the developer played any part in the county’s decision to cut down the trees.
Mudd responded, “Ma’am, the county removed the trees, they made a statement, and we have no comment beyond that.”
That set off a loud murmuring in the audience with one person shouting out “Yes or no?”
A county spokeswoman says the county is eager to sell the land for nearly $8 million and that the county is doing everything it can to prepare the site for development. Clearing the lot is part of that process.
Mudd also told the audience that plans are to cut down additional trees and replace them with a fence to separate the Royal Farms from Immaculate Conception School.
The proposed development is in Councilman David Marks’ district. Because of that, Marks has the authority to block the project in the next 90 days.
Beth Miller, a member of the Green Towson Alliance, says she hopes Marks will do that.
“I think that the community certainly doesn’t seem to have an equal voice in this process,” she complained. “We are always finding that our input is not considered at the same weight as other players in the process.”
But Mudd defended the project.
“We’ve put together frankly what we think is certainly the nicest looking thing along this stretch of York Road,” he said. “And we frankly think it’s one of the nicest things along all of York Road.”
Besides the Royal Farms, the proposed Towson Station would have two additional retail buildings. Caves Valley is also developing Towson Row in downtown Towson.