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Lutherville Station Developer Works To Combat 'Misinformation' As It Seeks Baltimore County Approval

The developer behind the proposed mixed-use overhaul of Baltimore County's Lutherville Station retail center has ramped up efforts to gather community support following the withdrawal of a bill that could have eased its approval process and a hearing in which residents spoke out on both sides of the project. 

The Lutherville Station shopping center

Lutherville Station LLC, led by developer Mark Renbaum, released a new document titled Get the Facts on Thursday. It details the company's efforts to build the project as well as the benefits of turning the roughly 60-year-old shopping center into 450 apartments, 25K SF of retail, 200K SF of offices and around 2.5 acres of green space next to the Lutherville Station light rail stop.

"We’ve been trying to have an open conversation with policymakers and the community about Lutherville Station," a spokesperson for the project said when asked about the release of the fact sheet. "However, there is a need to correct the record against the misinformation being spread about the project on numerous social media platforms and chatrooms. We believe the project should be judged according to its merits and the facts."

The release of the fact sheet and its call for community support follow a meeting with the Baltimore County Planning Board on Feb. 13 regarding the developer's rezoning request through the Comprehensive Zoning Map Process.

The Planning Board has yet to provide its recommendation on the project. Once it does, the Baltimore County Council would vote on whether to allow it to proceed.

One potential alternate route for the developer was closed off last week when County Executive Johnny Olszewski withdrew a bill that would have allowed specific developments to advance without council approval, including Lutherville Station. Instead, Olszewski is working with the council president on a bill that would designate zones where mixed-use development is encouraged. 

"Baltimore County needs to act now and with urgency to revitalize aging communities, support housing creation and cultivate thoughtful, more transit and pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods," Olszewski said in a statement, according to The Baltimore Banner

In the Lutherville Station fact sheet, the developer highlights findings from a 2023 University of Baltimore study that found that $235.1M in construction expenditures stemming from the project would spawn $322.9M in economic activity in Baltimore County

"The redevelopment of this currently vacant property will be a substantial economic development initiative and an opportunity to leverage incremental municipal revenue generated by the project for infrastructure improvements," the development team said in the fact sheet. "A strong sense of place is fundamental to the creation of community—and Lutherville Station is ready to become that new community hub."

The developer also outlined the process for obtaining a zoning change from the county needed to break ground on the development and detailed the development team's community outreach efforts during the past five years. The sheet also includes information on the project's potential environmental impact and provides traffic study findings on the development’s expected impact on traffic along the York Road corridor.  

While the proposed mixed-use development has sparked opposition from some residents who have rallied behind the slogan "No apartments, no compromise," speakers at the Planning Board meeting in February, which was held virtually because of inclement weather, largely backed the project. 

"We support mixed-use with apartments here because redevelopment is a given," Steve Plano, a resident and member of groups Friends of Old Lutherville and Friends of Roland Run, told the board. "We want a project that's an asset to Lutherville, not just another run-of-the-mill commercial or big-box [store]. Housing prices exceed what most can afford, and creative solutions are needed."

Klaus Philipsen, a Baltimore architect and transportation planner who helped design the light rail station next to the proposed development, told the board that planners selected that site because of its development potential. He also compared opponents of the development to the groups who opposed building the light rail more than 30 years ago. 

"Even back then, the [anti-]light rail coalition wanted to prevent the light rail and the stations to 'stop the wrong element from coming in,'" Philipsen said.  

Groups like the Greater Timonium Community Council still opposed the development and pressured Councilman Wade Kach to withhold support for the rezoning. Opponents also voiced objections during the Planning Board hearing, arguing the development is out of step with the community, would burden infrastructure and would increase traffic. 

"Renbaum has been painted in the media as an altruistic, forward-thinking person who wants to provide much-needed housing and has the county's best interest at heart. We'd all do well to keep in mind his primary motivation is to make as much money as possible, no matter who or what he damages in the process," Lutherville resident Pamela Jenkins told the board.