Balto. Co. lawmakers press board on parking lot
FThe folks in Parkville who have argued in the street and government offices to save a parking lot on Harford Road for public use now have a chance to negotiate with the developer who wants to buy it from the Baltimore County Revenue Authority.
The agency on Thursday put off a decision about selling the property, as members urged representatives of the community to talk with representatives of DMS Development LLC about a compromise to make as many spaces as possible available for public parking if the lot is sold. DMS has bid $530,000 — by far the highest of three offers — for the land measuring just under half an acre, with 56 metered and two handicapped parking spaces.
It was not clear if the meeting would take place. A representative of a Parkville business association who has been in the forefront of opposition to the sale said he's willing to try.
“I want to keep an open mind,” said Ed Pinder, a lawyer who chairs the Lavender Avenue lot committee for the Parkville/Carney Business and Professional Association and has helped organized two public protests of the possible sale. At the same time, he said, “we've given it a lot of thought. We feel we need all that parking.”
Pinder exchanged a few words briefly outside the meeting with Michael J. Ertel, a principal of DMS, and said he would consult with his organization board on the possibility of talks with the developer. The Towson-based DMS specializes in commercial development and has built several Walgreens drug stores in the area, fueling speculation by neighbors that the company has an agreement with Walgreens to build a store at the Lavender lot site.
Ertel would only say DMS has been talking with a “national” retail company.
Pinder was at the authority meeting Thursday morning along with Ruth Baisden, president of the Greater Parkville Community Council, four state lawmakers and two County Council members. All urged the authority not to sell the land.
Pinder and some of the lawmakers have been to the authority meetings before to make their case that the lot is essential to bringing business back to Parkville. Twice in the past 12 months, residents have staged rallies at the parking lot to demand that it be saved.
The authority — which runs parking garages, metered parking, golf courses and the Reisterstown Sportsplex — argues that the lot is not making enough money.
Del. John W. E. Cluster Jr., a eastern Baltimore County Republican, reminded authority members that the agency was created by state legislation and could be phased out the same way.
“We can do anything as far as disband you,” said Cluster. “If this [the sale] goes through, I've got to look at that.”
Authority Chairman Donald P. Hutchinson said he wasn't worried about that.
“They have the right to do that, “ he said, pointing out that the five board members are volunteers. “I think this is a job that in most cases, it was not sought.”
Also on Thursday, the board approved a revised agreement with the companies that propose building the Towson Circle III project on East Joppa Road across from Towson Town Center. The planned mix of movie theater, stores and offices also would include an underground parking garage, which the authority plans to buy back from the builder and manage.
The agreement moves the required start of construction back from Dec. 31, 2009 to Dec. 31, 2012, and changes terms that determine when the authority is to assume ownership. Mark Keener, a lawyer for Heritage Properties, one of the two companies involved, said that under the new agreement the authority would buy the garage based on a formula of bond interest rates and how much of the project is leased. The other partner in the project is the Baltimore-based Cordish Cos.
A county economic development official and a Heritage vice president last year said leasing the project was proving difficult because of poor economic conditions.