Letter: Editorial correct in noting benefits to Catonsville community thanks to approval of PUD

Letter to the editor

October 07, 2011

The Catonsville Times Oct. 5 editorial on PUDs ("PUD benefits should remain specific to project's location,") was 95 percent on target.

I appreciate observations made regarding Whalen Properties' medical office PUD on Kenwood Avenue, at the inner loop Beltway ramp.

To his credit, our proposed donation to Catonsville Rails to Trails (CRTT) was specifically Councilman Tom Quirk's initiative. After contemplating the various issues involved, he agreed that placing density where transportation infrastructure already exists made sense, but countered that we also had an obligation to facilitate offsetting local green benefits.

We mutually concluded that CRTT was an appropriate vehicle to accomplish his objective in our particular instance.

I met recently with Tom Ajluni, CRTT president. He will advise his board that our donation provide a targeted benefit to our immediate community, with specifics to be agreed upon in advance by all affected parties.

That defines win/win, in my opinion.

However, our CRTT donation was merely one of a long list of community benefits, not the least of which is a permanent four-way signalization at Kenwood and Wilkens avenues that the State Highway Administration was unwilling to provide on its own.

Another is the traffic smoothing solution to the awkward "free left turn" onto the northbound Beltway ramp, next to our site.

We estimate those two traffic items alone will cost $350,000.

We will also provide a major pedestrian connection between dead-end sidewalks on Kenwood and Wilkens avenues, better handicap access for the parking lots at the Kenwood Gardens condos across the street (subject to acceptance by their condo board), LEED Silver environmental certification for the building, community signage, some Beltway noise remediation and a list of other benefits, detailed in our Baltimore County PUD submission and in numerous community presentations.

Every benefit is local to our neighborhood.

I understand the Times' appropriate concern about diluting PUD benefits county-wide, which more appropriately should be targeted to the affected community.

NeighborSpace is a wonderful program deserving a prominent place as a potential benefit option, as is Rails to Trails.

Other worthy alternatives may exist, depending on the specific PUD and its location.

A simple solution would be a minor County Council refinement, requiring donations to any organizations provide localized benefits. At a minimum, that might mean spending within the subject councilmanic district.

It could be further narrowed to a mileage radius from the project or to a defined neighborhood affected by the project.

One size probably does not fit all when determining where benefit dollars go.

However, reasonable people should be able to agree on intelligent guidelines, assuring that the Times' valid concern is appropriately addressed.

Stephen Whalen Jr.

Whalen Properties

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