Towson jail issue raised in road plan

Citizens panel miffed over change in wording about detention center

Plan for Kenilworth corridor

January 03, 2002|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County officials are seeking changes to a new traffic and zoning plan in the Towson area - excising community opposition to the disputed jail expansion, some residents complain.

The original text of the "Kenilworth Drive Corridor Plan," completed in October, includes a section on the Baltimore County Detention Center saying that the community has urged the county to find an alternative site for the expanded jail. It notes the community's concerns about traffic, parking, lighting and other issues, and adds that the residential communities nearby should be protected from any negative effects of the expansion.

A memo from Planning Director Arnold F. "Pat" Keller III, dated Dec. 26, recommends scrapping that section and replacing it with several new paragraphs. The first two lay out the county's case for expanding the detention center, and the next several restate many of the community's concerns about parking, lighting, traffic and aesthetic issues.

What's missing, committee members said, is the sense that the community strongly opposes the expansion. The committee is made up of residents and business people from the Kenilworth Drive area.

The county Planning Board is scheduled to vote on the revisions and the final plan at 4 p.m. today.

"They neutralized the opposition and the rhetoric of the community's concerns," said Arthur N. Rogers III, a planning board member from Towson who participated in the committee. "No community should have to live with this."

Elise Armacost, spokeswoman for County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, said yesterday: "The purpose of this amendment ... is to ensure that the plan reflects the most recent information regarding the expansion and to formally set forth recommendations to ensure the integrity of nearby neighborhoods."

The language in the new version about the detention center and related parking and traffic issues is more specific than in the original and reflects community meetings on jail design held after the corridor plan was completed.

Members of the committee said they were explicitly told not to focus on the expansion of the detention center, although it is the most significant and contentious development on Kenilworth Drive.

Councilman Wayne M. Skinner, who sponsored the resolution creating the committee, said the study was in response to a now-defunct proposal for a supermarket at West Road and Kenilworth Drive and was something he promised to do before the jail expansion plan was announced in 2000. The bulk of the corridor plan deals with traffic patterns in the area and a few zoning issues.

"I don't think it was necessary to put [the amendment] in there. The way I look at it, it's just salt in the wound," Skinner said. "They should have just left well enough alone."

Corinne Becker, president of the Riderwood Hills Community Association and a committee member, said she was upset that the administration would make such a major change this late without the committee's input. She said she'd rather the plan be tabled than have the amendment pass without more chance for discussion.

"I was a little surprised that all of a sudden an amendment was introduced and will be voted on Thursday. As far as I know, none of the committee members were consulted on this," Becker said. "We would have to have a meeting in order to come to any kind of endorsement or agreement on it."

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