Owings Mills town center up for key votes

Delayed $220 million project has offices, retail, garages, library-college branch

June 05, 2005|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

A plan to build a town center near the Owings Mills metro station appears to be moving ahead - with the Baltimore County Council set to vote tomorrow on the $220 million project and the state Board of Public Works scheduled to decide this month whether to approve a lawsuit settlement that has delayed construction for two years.

The lead developer, David S. Brown Enterprises Inc., has submitted plans to the county to build a main street surrounded by office buildings, stores, apartments or condos, five parking garages, a hotel and a new library and community college branch near the metro station.

The county has set aside $16.7 million for the library-college building and a $13.1 million contribution toward parking garages that will replace existing commuter lots on the 47.5-acre site.

"This is the most important mixed-used project to be launched in this region for a decade or more," said David S. Iannucci, executive director of the county's Department of Economic Development.

He added that the Owings Mills community has been waiting a long time for a town center, library and community college.

The state's Higher Education Commission has agreed to grant the county $3.7 million toward the building of the college, and the Maryland Transit Administration is set to spend $15.1 million on parking and infrastructure at the state-owned property, according to county officials.

The state Board of Public Works is to decide at its June 15 meeting whether to approve the state's expenditures on the project and a proposed settlement reached in December in a lawsuit filed by the state against the former owners of the property.

The former owner of the land, Painters Mill Venture, would receive 8.62 acres of state-owned land in Owings Mills, along with $750,000 from the developers and $250,000 from state under the terms of the proposed settlement.

The Board of Public Works must approve the $250,000 payment and transfer of land, which is in three parcels near Red Run Boulevard, before construction on the town center can begin.

The County Council must also approve the "master development agreement" with the developers.

The county estimates the town center will create more than 5,000 jobs and generate $3.6 million annually in county property and income taxes.

Operating as Owings Mills Transit LLC for this project, David S. Brown and partner Willard Hackerman plan to complete the first two parking garages by 2007.

The first stores, offices and residential units would likely be finished within five years.

The community college and library building would be finished within three to five years, according to the proposed development agreement.

Even if the developers were to pull out of the project, which will likely take 10 to 15 years to complete, county officials say that they are still guaranteed that they will be able to build the library-community college branch at the site.

The clause was important, Iannucci said, because the first developers chosen for the project withdrew in 2002, contributing to some of the delays that have beset the proposed town center.

Some residents remain concerned about traffic congestion that could be caused by the development and whether the project will hurt existing businesses, said Councilman Kenneth N. Oliver, a Randallstown Democrat who represents the Owings Mills area.

Councilman Kevin Kamenetz said he hoped the county would begin looking at ways to resolve the probable congestion "before the traffic jams begin."

The Pikesville-Ruxton Democrat proposed creating a road from Reisterstown Road, near Wal-Mart, to Painters Mill Road. He said he'd also like the state to build a ramp from the development onto Interstate 795. Current plans call for an exit from 795 into the proposed town center but not out of it.

Besides voting on whether to approve the master development agreement, the council is scheduled to vote on several other aspects of project, such as the number and location of parking spaces for library users.

If the agreements are approved by the council, the county would pay $1 each year to lease the community college and library building and about $12,000 a year to maintain the main street area by, for instance, removing snow and trash and repairing it as needed, Iannucci said.

A hearing on whether the project meets county development requirements is scheduled for 9 a.m. June 30 in Towson.

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