Letter: Taking time to consider Y's proposal best in long term

May 24, 2011

Councilman Tom Quirk is right to take a go-slow approach on the Central Maryland Y proposal to build a comprehensive medical services facility on the grounds of the Rolling Road Catonsville Y campus.

Councilman Quirk wants to consider community suggestions and concerns to produce the best outcome for the Catonsville Y and the larger community.

While he says he endorses the proposed 60,000-square foot St. Agnes Medical Center facility, he thinks it is a better fit in the established Frederick Road business corridor, where there are complementary business amenities and supports to meet the parking and traffic requirements of the facility.

Plus the issues of Rolling Road traffic and mission compatibility remain.

The Central Y describes the emphasis of the new Y to be wellness and fitness, but the Catonsville Y has a long tradition of serving young children — some very young ones attend day-care and camps at the site.

It seems like a reasonable request from a community that has supported the Catonsville Y for 40 years: first, with the land donation from A.D. Anderson, that is the location of the Rolling Road campus used by Catonsville, Halethorpe and Arbutus residents; followed by almost 40 years of local funding support for the Central Y's major regional initiatives.

According to an article in the Catonsville Times ("County gives Y go-ahead to begin upgrades," April 20), Central Y president and CEO John Hoey tells this community that the Y "may have to leave Catonsville" if Councilman Tom Quirk does not utilize the PUD process to simplify the site's zoning to build the medical center at the Rolling Road campus.

For nonzoning experts out there, PUDs (planned unit developments) are controversial because they circumvent the zoning regulations regarding density, land use and setbacks.

Mr. Hoey tells us that the Central Y needs to break ground by the end of the year, depending on results of a traffic analysis, and he is pressing for quick action on the PUD by Councilman Quirk.

Mr. Hoey says that the Catonsville Y will lose the state capital grants of $1.5 million to rebuild the Catonsville facility if the funds are not matched by 2012.

Nevertheless, Mr. Hoey says, "I'm really focused on making the PUD work and working through all the issues. I'm an optimist at heart, so that's my focus."

We are optimists too.

And we were five years ago when the local board, of which I was a member, co-led the effort with the Central Maryland Y to secure the $1.5 million from the Maryland General Assembly to rebuild the local Y campus on Rolling Road.

Led by then-chairman Joe Loverde, we testified in Annapolis and helped write the local case for the state funding, which allows seven years to raise matching funds.

We also successfully made the case for a $55,000 planning grant from the Central Maryland Y board to design the new Catonsville campus.

Make no mistake. Everyone involved in the initiative to rebuild the Catonsville Y over the last five plus years wants the same thing: a renewed Y facility that can serve the community for the next 40 years.

We believed that we had positioned Catonsville and the Catonsville Y to make that future happen.

In the spirit of partnership, which demands mutual trust and equality, it seems fair to ask the Central Maryland Y to allow time for this community and Councilman Quirk to study the impact of PUD and of locating the medical facility at the Rolling Road site, then come back with the community's comments.

Mary Toth, former board member

Catonsville Western Family Y

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