Some Towson community leaders are expressing concern about a plan they say will put a new fire house on an existing park in exchange for a promise of air conditioning at Dumbarton Middle School.
County officials refuse to confirm or deny a plan some residents say they were told involved the sale and redevelopment of the current Towson Fire Station at York and Bosley Roads. A new station would be built on the site of an existing park that sits on Towsontown Boulevard between East Towson and newly built Towson Green. Some money from the sale of the existing fire station could be used to provide air conditioning for Dumbarton Middle School.
"We don't exactly have a surplus of park land in Towson," said Michael Ertel, chairman of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations government relations committee. "It's kind of like [the county] is saying 'We'll give you [air conditioning] if you shut your mouth.'"
The relocation of the Towson Fire Station has been discussed for several years. This spring, the county removed it from the budget for the current year.
Ertel and others said they learned of the proposal to build a new facility on Towsontown Boulevard late Monday.
"It seems like the communities are being ignored or we're the last to know," said Paul Hartman, vice president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations.
Adelaide Bentley, president of the Northeast Towson Improvement Association, which represents the neighborhoods adjacent to the park on Towsontown Boulevard, said she also had just learned about the proposal.
"I can't really say anything about it because I don't know much," Bentley said. "It's hard to talk about something you don't know anything about."
The association has not taken a position on the proposal but Ertel and Hartman said they have questions.
"I don't think anyone disagrees with the idea that the fire station needs to be rebuilt," Hartman said. "I don't think anyone disagrees with the fact that Dumbarton needs air conditioning. I think taking open space that is well-utilized and well-maintained is not a good idea."
Community leaders say they'd like to talk to county officials now.
"I'm just smelling a rat," said Ertel. "There's something going on there."
Ertel said he thinks the plan all along has been to sell the existing fire station to developers.
"We've kind of felt like ever since [County Executive Kevin] Kamenetz took office that someone wanted that property," Ertel said.
"I did give the administration names of people they needed to talk to," Marks said. "I've made it clear that I want the community engaged. That's all I can say right now."
"The county executive has been pretty open about the fact that he's tasked his staff to find parcels of county-owned properties that are on valuable pieces of land in commercial corridors and see if there might be a better use for them," said Mohler, adding that part of the plan could include getting those county-owned properties on the tax rolls.
Mohler said the county has nearly completed a study of such properties.
"We hope to have a definitive comment regarding that in the next two weeks," said Mohler.