Oella Mill developers bow to review process

Group pulls request to skip public hearings on apartment project

January 08, 2002|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Developers planning to turn the historic Oella Mill into upscale apartments have reversed themselves and will not try to avoid formal public comment on the project.

Forest City Residential Group of Cleveland had asked to be exempted from Baltimore County's development review process. Yesterday, it pulled its request from the county's Development Review Committee agenda.

Had the request been approved, no input meeting would have been required, nor would there have been a hearing before a county zoning commissioner. The move would have saved the developer about eight weeks.

Many Oella residents had complained about the request, and yesterday a Forest City executive said the company will subject itself to the full development review.

"We're trying to do the right thing," said David J. Levey, Forest City executive vice president. "We were never trying to circumvent the public process.

"We're very sensitive to the community. Our intention was to only get from point A to point B."

Oella residents said yesterday that they welcome the company's reversal.

"I think it's the best thing to do," said Jay Patel, president of the Greater Oella Community Association. "It gives a fair chance for everybody to provide input."

Other leaders lauded Forest City for changing its plans.

"Forest City wants to do what is right by the community," said County Councilman Stephen G. Samuel Moxley, a Catonsville Democrat.

In November, Forest City announced plans to turn the 19th-century mill at 840 Oella Ave. into apartments that would rent for $1,400 to $3,000 a month.

The mill, an eclectic emporium of art and antiques dealers, has the necessary zoning to permit the 177 apartments.

In November, Forest City officials met informally with Oella residents and encountered little objection to their plan. The chief concern expressed by area residents since then is the prospect of increased traffic on narrow area roads.

Forest City was seeking the limited exemption under a provision that allows such development if it has no impact on county amenities such as water and sewer hookups.

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