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Potato, potahto, renovation, redevelopment - same difference?

A Baltimore County real estate development is once again on hold. The Green Spring Station site in Lutherville has been the source of conflict among developers, business associations, homeowners and preservationists for years. The most recent issue is one developer's plan to renovate a portion of the site.

The developer wants to take down part of an existing structure and put up a "health and wellness center." The center would house medical offices as well as fitness equipment and rehabilitation services. Baltimore County approved the plan for the three-story center, agreeing with the developer that the project is a renovation.

Or is it a redevelopment? There is a difference, say opponents of the project.

A number of groups appealed the county's decision, arguing that replacing a "pre-fab barn" to a multi-story office building is a major redevelopment. In the appeal, the groups cited a county ordinance that calls for special approvals of office building developments, approvals that did not happen with the Green Spring Station project.

The county issued a stay on the building permits when officials realized that the permits, approvals and inspections department had not researched the project thoroughly. The developer must now submit an amended site plan.

The developer believes the wellness center will be a valuable addition to the area. Without retail space, the facility should not increase traffic during rush hour, as opponents fear, according to a company representative. And, the plan is to reduce the footprint of the building and to add much-needed parking spaces. 

Homeowners in the area oppose high-density development on the site, whether it's a renovation or a redevelopment. What the homeowners would like, said a member of the homeowners association, is a plan for the whole site. This proposal is just for a portion of it, and the neighborhood has been waiting a decade for someone to give a big-picture overview of the plan for the site.

The problem, the developer says, is that there are multiple owners involved. The difficulty of coordinating multiple parties with the county and the other stakeholders has proved almost insurmountable. There may never be an overall plan for the center.

Opponents of this project may find themselves back at the Board of Appeals a few more times before anything is settled.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Neighbors say Balto. Co. wrongly issued permits to Green Spring Station developers," Alison Knezevich, July 5, 2013