Towson community criticizes proposed police station design

Residents, businesses say county pushed ill-suited plan, skipped public input

May 05, 1999|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

For years, Baltimore County has tried to replace the crowded and deteriorating, 72-year-old police precinct on Washington Avenue in Towson.

But as the county rushes toward construction of a $5.1 million, two-story facility nearby, community leaders accuse officials of bypassing public comment and pushing a design ill-suited to the residential and commercial corridor.

Businesses and homeowners, who have invested millions of dollars to improve Towson's street- scape, object to an access road that would cut through a small park and the razor-wire fencing that would surround vehicle storage lots.

"This facility is located at one of the gateways into Towson," said Nancy Horst, executive director of the Towson Partnership. "It's in a prominent spot in the county seat with some beautiful buildings nearby." The proposed precinct would be built at Bosley and Susquehanna avenues.

"They're calling for an Art Deco design for this facility which doesn't seem to fit in with the other buildings. They just plunked it down," said Horst.

Leaders of the partnership, Towson Business Association and Towson Development Corp. have requested a meeting with county officials to discuss design plans, which call for a 17,000-square-foot brick structure and three parking lots surrounded by fencing. One lot will be used for police cars, the others for storing vehicles.

The county hopes to start building by the end of summer.

The design plan by the Washington office of Ayers Saint Gross was approved in a hearing by the Department of Public Works architectural review committee.

As part of the Towson Community Plan, the design then went through another hearing with the planning office's design review panel, an advisory group of architects and landscape architects that oversees the aesthetic qualities of buildings proposed for the area. That panel approved the design April 14 with a number of recommendations, including:

The location, width and grading of the road through the park area should be studied to retain as many trees and as much open space as possible.

The chain-link fence with razor wire should be replaced by better-quality and more attractive fencing material or by removing the wire completely.

The site should be heavily landscaped to screen the parking and storage lots.

County spokeswoman Elise Armacost said yesterday that the design has been changed to remove the razor wire, but a chain-link fence is planned around the parking lot perimeter.

Armacost said the final revisions are due in about two weeks, and it is unclear whether they will incorporate the recommendations.

Some community members saw the plan for the first time at the April 14 hearing.

"A lot of community leaders felt that if this had been a private developer, they'd have had to go through a more rigorous review than what the county has gone through," said County Councilman Wayne M. Skinner, a Towson Republican.

"No one is opposed to the new police precinct, they just think the county should play by its own rules and allow the public to have a say in what it looks like," he added. "We don't need a sore thumb in the middle of town."

Some have expressed concern that because the design process cost $700,000 more than expected, the construction must not run over budget.

Joseph Glass, who has an office across the street on Courtland Avenue, said, "I hope that whatever they build there, I'm going to see a nice design concept to keep this area in tiptop form."

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