Towson U. removes apartments from plan Neighbors concerned about expansion

September 23, 1998|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,SUN STAFF

An olive branch extended by Towson University to neighbors worried about campus encroachment into their community has bitter fruit attached to it, as far as some residents and elected officials are concerned.

After more than a year of public outcry, the university has agreed to delete the acquisition of two apartment complexes -- the Town and Country Versailles-North Charles and Lambeth House apartment complexes on Towsontown Boulevard -- from its 10-year master plan.

But another complex -- the Stevenson Lane Apartments, on Stevenson Lane and Osler Drive -- remains in the university's proposal, allowing for possible purchase by the university.

"It would definitely be a factor in our property values," said longtime Rodgers Forge resident Don Gerding. "It makes me very uneasy."

Towson University President Hoke L. Smith maintains that leaving the Stevenson Lane Apartments in the master plan was an oversight. "We have no plans for it," he said.

Del. James M. Kelly, a Towson Republican, said: "I don't believe it was inadvertent. How hard is it to double-check that?"

Towson University, which is designated a growth institution by the University System of Maryland, is faced with an expected enrollment explosion of about 7,000 students in the next several years above its current student body of about 15,500.

Already beyond capacity in its residence halls, the university is exploring additional ways to house students, including leasing land to a developer that would build dorms on campus.

The neighborhood apartment complexes were included in the master plan only as a possibility, officials maintained. There were no plans or money to acquire them.

But when the master plan was released in March 1997, residents balked at the possibility of the university moving into their communities.

"I've always pushed for Towson to stay within its boundaries," said Kelly, who lives in nearby Knollwood-Donnybrook. "My concern is what will happen as Towson University continues to grow."

At the urging of Kelly and other elected officials, including Towson Republican Sen. F. Vernon Boozer, Smith sought permission from the University System's board of regents to delete the Versailles and Lambeth House complexes from the master plan. The board approved the request Aug. 28.

"Vernon talked to me about how it was causing angst in the neighborhoods," Smith said.

Although the two apartment complexes remain listed in the document, the board's ruling makes their inclusion "null and void," a university spokeswoman said.

Southland Hills neighbors, which back up to the Towsontown Boulevard complexes, are relieved that the university withdrew the apartments from the master plan.

"We're very pleased that through the efforts of our legislators, particularly Senator Boozer, they got Towson [University] to take them out of the plan," said Vince Nesline, president of the Southland Hills Improvement Association.

Pub Date: 9/23/98

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