Councilman Kenneth Oliver asked his colleagues to delay a decision on rezoning the Solo Cup property in Owings Mills for retail development until a state traffic study is completed.
Oliver said he wants to give transportation officials time to finish studying and engineering traffic improvements on “the already overwhelming traffic congestion along Reisterstown Road” in a press release Tuesday. He said it would be premature to rezone a manufacturing property prior to the completion of those processes.
“When we are talking about potentially committing tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize the traffic from a developer’s proposed private project, we need to fully understand the facts and the costs,” Oliver said in the release.
In the release, Oliver mentions that last week, Gov. Martin O’Malley devoted $1.1 million to design and engineer improvements to the intersection of Reisterstown and Painters Mill Roads. The intersection near the former Solo Cup plant has been a point of contention for residents and others in regard to the Wegmans-anchored Foundry Row project proposed for the area.
Oliver also mentioned the $500,000 state study of traffic along the Reisterstown Road corridor, which Sen. Bobby Zirkin pushed for in the 2012 General Assembly session. While the study is not mandated, it would look at Reisterstown Road from Owings Mills Boulevard to I-695 in Pikesville and would include analysis of current and proposed development over the next 20 years.
The county and lawyers representing Greenberg Gibbons, who want to redevelop the Solo Cup property, opposed the state study.
Zirkin, in an interview Tuesday, said the study ultimately approved in the state budget is needed but not as extensive as he wanted.
"These roads can't handle the (expected) traffic," Zirkin said. "You'd have to be a moron to think that the roads can handle that kind of traffic."
The state Department of Transportation is expected to complete that study by December 1, 2012.
Brian Gibbons, president and CEO of Foundry Row developer Greenberg Gibbons Commercial, said Oliver’s plea “makes no sense,” since his development will still have to earn State Highway Administration approvals before building.
Greenberg Gibbons plans to invest approximately $7 million in off-site traffic improvements to solve traffic woes around its property. The developer submitted traffic plans to the Baltimore County Planning Board prior to its decision to recommend rezoning Solo Cup.
“The intersection of Reisterstown Road and Painters Mill Road will be better off with our project and our improvements than it would be if the project never happened,” Gibbons said.
Gibbons also noted that the 385,000 square feet of retail proposed for Foundry Row would generate less traffic than a manufacturing operation or office space in the current Solo Cup buildings. Both uses are allowed under current zoning, he said. Greenberg Gibbons plans to share its traffic statistics with Patch this week.
Officials from both Kimco, the company proposing to revamp the Owings Mills Mall, and David S. Brown, the company building the transit-oriented development Metro Centre, have argued that Foundry Row would hurt prospects for overall success and create additional problems, such as traffic congestion and excess retail and office space.
Baltimore County Political Reporter Bryan Sears contributed to this report.