Opposition against two proposed Towson movie complexes continues to heat up this summer as neighbors organize meetings, go door to door with petitions and pass out fliers.
This week, an outspoken group of protesters packed a meeting on the Towson Marketplace multiplex, while a mile away, a smaller group questioned a proposed entertainment complex in the heart of Towson that also includes multiple movie screens.
"It's a case of not-in-my-back-yard syndrome," said Paul Tippett, president of the Penthouse Condominium Association.
Residents of the Allegheny Avenue condo high-rise, located behind the site of Tennessee-based Regal Cinema's proposed Funscape at Washington Avenue and York Road, raised concerns Tuesday about traffic, trash and teen loiterers.
The five-story center, which will include restaurants, high-tech games for adults and children, and 10 movie screens, will be a family place, said Rick Albertson, Regal spokesman, trying to dispel the residents' worries. "If people don't have a good experience, they won't come back," he said.
Meanwhile, Loch Raven Village homeowners were loudly voicing their concerns the same night about the proposed Towson Marketplace theaters at a meeting of their community association.
The grass-roots opposition, which has gathered 1,000 signatures opposing the theaters, voted against the movie project.
"These movies are going to affect our lives with an increase in litter, vandalism and crime," said Kimberly Carton of Putty Hill Road. "There will be all kinds of problems."
About 350 people jammed into the sweltering Babcock Presbyterian Church to decry actions of their own Loch Raven Village Association's board of directors.
Claiming that the board had not given residents a chance to decide on Towson Marketplace issues, opponents took action under the association's bylaws to demand that a meeting be held.
"We expected them to call a membership meeting and take a vote," said Mike Sarkin, an organizer of the protest. "People were waiting for that to happen."
But Frank Stromyer, president of the board, said the board votes on such matters in accordance with association bylaws.
The board's recommendations on Towson Marketplace at East Joppa Road and Goucher Boulevard had been passed on to a liaison committee of six neighboring communities -- Loch Raven Village along with Towson Estates, Knettishall, Cromwell Valley, Campus Hills and Fellowship Forest.
The committee has been meeting with Florida-based developer James Schlesinger of Talisman-Towson Partnership for the past nine months to revise a 1989 agreement between the neighborhoods and the property owner. The contract gives the community associations control over certain aspects of the shopping center. It also allows for movie theaters.
But to proceed with the cinemas, Mr. Schlesinger needs a special zoning exception. A hearing date on the zoning has not been set.
So far, the liaison committee has worked out a tentative agreement with Mr. Schlesinger to limit the midnight movies he wants to 20 weekends a year.
Other negotiations have not been divulged since the committee members took a vow of silence until the terms are complete.
If the groups do not agree on a new contract, the 1989 covenants will remain in place, giving the neighborhoods less say in the Towson Marketplace project, several residents say.
"You have to weigh control vs. no control," said Wayne Skinner, a member of the Loch Raven Village board of directors. "It's a crap shoot."
Mr. Schlesinger's plan also calls for upscale retail shops and restaurants in addition to the multiplex with 16 screens and 3,500 seats.
Calling the movies important to his project, Mr. Schlesinger said, "I'm not saying there can't be a center without movies, but the center will not be as nice, attractive, fun or high-end without the movies."
Mr. Sarkin isn't persuaded. "The developer has shown remarkable inflexibility in negotiating the size and seating space he wants there," he said. "The '89 agreement from what I know is vague and poorly constructed. It can be interpreted in many ways. . . . We have taken the stance of no movies."
Mr. Schlesinger takes the protests in stride, pointing out that Loch Raven Village is only one of six associations involved. "At these meetings, you get negative people. . . . They represent a minority of people," he said.
But Mr. Sarkin said the only way to get a true consensus of the 1,472 homes in Loch Raven Village would be to accept absentee votes or votes by mail, which the current bylaws do not allow. "We were very encouraged by what happened [Tuesday] night," he said. "We celebrated with snowballs, but today we're back to work."
Another opposition meeting on Towson Marketplace was being planned for Wednesday by Knettishall residents. Leon and Lorraine Rozankowski, who have lived in the neighborhood of 364 homes for 39 years, have collected 317 signatures opposing the Marketplace cinemas.
"We're worried about crime," Mrs. Rozankowski said. "We love our area and want to keep it that way."