Forward Baltimore is grateful to Nancy R. Goldring for allowing us to publish her letter to County Executive John Olszewski. The letter deserves to be read by everyone in Baltimore County, especially those in the Towson area.
I am Nancy R. Goldring, newly elected President of the Northeast Towson Improvement Association, Inc. (N.E.T.I.A., Inc.) raised in Historic East Towson and most notably Adelaide C. V. Bentley’s granddaughter. While we had all hoped to make your acquaintance under more favorable circumstances, what better way to establish a working relationship than in the equitable and just resolution of issues central to our futures and at the forefront of our consciousness, at the moment.
As a “data driven” leader, you are – no doubt – well aware of our many objections to the building of Red Maple Place in Historic East Towson. A summary of those objections are as follows: the site of this project is already a source of excessive stormwater run-off, and its development plan includes considerable forest buffer encroachments. Existing traffic congestion literally dictates our comings and goings at various times of the day. There is also the growing “unwalkability” of Historic East Towson especially given the absence of adequate traffic controls, painted walkways and pedestrian right-of-way signs. The unattractive esthetic of the proposed structure cannot be discounted given the County’s pursuit of “Main Street ” designation and the requisite state funding it will bring primarily for beautification. Finally, the further overcrowding of our public schools can only continue to degrade the quality of education that would be further exacerbated by an increase in student population.
In 2006, I was invited to participate in the Baltimore County Department of Planning’s Urban Design Assistance Team (UDAT) study. It was my first formal introduction to Towson’s commitment to reinventing herself. I anticipated, however naively, that the prospects of a more “walkable” Towson would benefit the Towson business core and residents alike. That is until I saw a map showing just how much of Historic East Towson’s boundaries had been eroded by development in my lifetime, then less than two generations.
Growing commercial and municipal development coupled with bypasses, electrical substations, zip code changes and redistricting are just some of the seemingly innocuous actions taken by Baltimore County government that collectively whittled down to six blocks a community that once spanned as far as York Road and Bosley Avenue and into North and West Towson.
The most recent iteration of long-standing plans to excise Historic East Towson from Towson’s geographical memory is the proposed 57-unit affordable housing project known as Red Maple Place. After being denied the right to homeownership in Towson for nearly a century, what remains of Historic East Towson is finally a homeowner community. Red Maple Place, as currently planned, would ruin our streetscape, decimate property values, diminish parking for events at our cultural hub – the Elk Lodge, and send good neighbors elsewhere. This development would set us back nearly 200 years and forever confirm Historic East Towson as Towson’s ghetto.
A forty-year interest-free loan from Baltimore County is sufficient confirmation of support. Given that support, my greatest concern is that by the end of the mortgage term, Historic East Towson will be absorbed by Towson’s commercial district, thus relegating our tiny enclave to the annals of history. Maybe it receives honorable mention at local historical conferences, yet by then, all that is likely to remain of this community are commemorative signs pointing to where it used to be.
Please know that Historic East Towson is not against affordable housing as many of us live here as a benefit of such programs and opportunities. It is precisely the opportunity to buy and not simply rent in Historic East Towson that continues to make all the difference in our demographic, increasing possibilities for diversity and inclusion, thereby improving and increasing our metrics on any quality-of-life index.
Surely another location is available and possible. Though, if not probable, I invite you to consider a more innovative alternative. In these uncertain times, online merchandising has forever changed the way we shop and Zoom will forever change the way we do business. With that in mind, a mixed-use residential, small-shops, and shared workspace development supporting local business and growing new families is a powerful longterm and viable option. The proposed property for Red Maple Place is flanked one side by a commercial office space addressed as 405 East Joppa Road. As fate would have it, this building is currently for sale and in proximity to others that are likely on a similar trajectory. In an age defined by and applauded for its capacity to creatively recycle and repurpose resources, new construction is unnecessary and in this economic climate, could in no way be interpreted as fiscally responsible.
Finally, please know that we greatly appreciate your taking another look at what’s possible. The truth is that Red Maple Place is not good for Towson. A federal mandate requiring affordable housing on the scale proposed is more of an excuse than a solution and can in no way be described as good public service. I am convinced that there is an Uber-styled answer to this challenge. Data-driven leadership must bring about deep learning and thoughtful action steps that gracefully circumvent the pressures and pitfalls of conventional thinking. I am hopeful that we can count on you, as our representative, to rally the resources necessary to find and implement quality solutions about which all of Towson can live with and be proud.
We look forward to hearing from you. In the meantime, be well.
With Sincere Enthusiasm,
Nancy R. Goldring, President
Northeast Towson Improvement Association, Inc.