Parkville's Lavender Lot sold amid community objections

Lot, seen as crucial to neighborhood development, slated for drug store

May 26, 2011|By Arthur Hirsch, The Baltimore Sun

Over the strong objections of Parkville community and business organizations, the Baltimore County Revenue Authority voted Thursday to sell a parking lot on Harford Road to a real estate developer who plans to build a drugstore on it.

DMS Development LLC of Towson plans to buy the lot near Taylor and Lavender avenues for $530,000 and expects to begin construction in the fall of 2012. DMS Principal David M. Schlachman acknowledged during the Thursday morning meeting that the tenant would be a Walgreens drugstore, but he said in an interview later that the agreement with the national chain had not been signed.

Ruth Baisden, president of the Greater Parkville Community Council, said after the vote that she was "extremely disappointed" with the 2-1 vote. Authority board members Merreen E. Kelly and Joseph E. Blair Jr. voted in favor, while Leslie M. Pittler voted against. Two board members were absent.

"You had three people, or really two people, who decided the future of our business district that we've been trying to revitalize for 11 years," said Baisden. Her group, along with the Parkville Carney Business and Professional Association, have staged street protests, written letters and argued before the board that the so-called Lavender Lot is crucial to the survival of the Parkville business district and is used as the site of the annual Parkville fair and other community events.

She argued that the state and county recently spent millions of dollars "in good faith" to improve the street and the parking lot as a public benefit, and asked how the lot could now be sold to a private developer.

Blair said he backed the sale as part of the board's "fiduciary responsibility" to best manage its resources. The authority, which has owned the lot since the 1950s, has argued that the 56 parking meters don't bring in enough money to justify keeping the site, which measures just over a half-acre.

Pittler argued that the responsibility "goes both ways," and said there was an obligation to maintain the lot for the community. He had proposed the authority lease the lot to the local business community, as the authority had done before with a lots in Pikesville and Arbutus.

While voting to sell the lot, the board also agreed to have the authority's chief executive, William L. Cook II, meet with the county's Department of Economic Development, community members and that district's county councilwoman, Cathy Bevins, to draw up an economic development plan for the area.

Baisden asked that money be allocated from the sale to hire a director to promote the Main Street business area.

DMS submitted the highest of three bids. Schlachman — who has built several Walgreens stores in the Baltimore area — said he's been trying to find a spot near the Lavender Lot for years but that other locations never worked out.

"It's a busy intersection" and a good location for a store, said Schlachman. He said the next-nearest Walgreens is at Harford and East Joppa roads, about two miles north.

Schlachman still has to agree to terms on a lease or purchase with the owners of a piece of property next door that he also needs for the new store. That land now has two businesses on it and is owned by two sisters who also bid on the Lavender Lot.

Schlachman and Michael J. Ertel, also a DMS principal, expressed confidence that they could reach an agreement on the second piece of land. Ertel said the Lavender Lot purchase would be contingent on an agreement with the owners of the neighboring land.

Joyce A. Devilbiss, who co-owns the second parcel, which measures about a half-acre, said she envisioned leasing rather than selling the property to DMS.

"I think Parkville needs some kind of anchor store," said Devilbiss, who said her family has owned land in that area for generations. She disagreed with the claim by the community and business association that the business district cannot thrive without the Lavender Lot.

"The parking lot has not been used," she said.

Schlachman met with community members this month to try to work out an agreement to set aside some parking spaces for public use. Given the likely size of the store, Ertel said, DMS would need at least 48 or 49 parking spaces, or else it would have to seek a variance from the county. He and Schlachman said they would be willing to allow public use of parking so long as it would not make it necessary for DMS to apply for a variance.

arthur.hirsch@baltsun.com

    Baltimore Sun Articles
    |
    |
    |
    Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.