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Owings Mills development battle still raging

The development battle in Owings Mills is heating up — and cooling down.

Acrimonious debate has swirled among the titans involved — developers Greenberg Gibbons, Kimco and David S. Brown Enterprises — over a proposed zoning change to the former Solo Cup site on Reisterstown Road that would clear the way for a shopping center anchored by Wegmans.

In that wake, residents and politicians alike have been exposed to ongoing, creative communiqués.

At annual Fourth of July parades around Baltimore County, sweltering patriots cooled off by using old-fashioned cardboard fans that said “Say No To Solo” in red, white and blue.

Proponents of the $140 million retail development have more than 2,300 “likes” on a “Support Foundry Row” Facebook page set up last month to publicize attempts to gain favorable rezoning of the 52-acre parcel from the Baltimore County Council in a vote expected late next month.

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The feuding parties are Greenberg Gibbons, which would redevelop the Solo Cup site into Foundry Row, Kimco, developer of the Owings Mills Mall, which has announced a massive restructuring and redevelopment of the property and Howard Brown, owner of David S. Brown Enterprises, which owns the mega Metro Centre development now under construction just off of Interstate 795.

All three developments are located in about a 5-mile radius.

Press releases and community updates from the parties have been posting at a swift pace, some critical of County Councilwoman Vicki Almond, whose district includes the Solo Cup site and who in the past has seemed to favor the rezoning.

Then there was the salvo fired last week in a veto by County Executive Kevin Kamenetz of council legislation with amendments that would have mandated less density at Metro Centre.

Furious, Brown said in an interview that the council’s vote was “insane” and part of an air of irresponsibility by the group because the county has invested close to $58 million in the development so far with construction and grants for a large new Baltimore County Public Library branch and campus of the Community College of Baltimore County there.

Furthermore, if the zoning change goes through, it will be the death knell for the Owings Mills Mall, Brown said.

A traffic study addressing the impact of the new development in the area surrounding the Solo Cup site has yet to be released publicly, he added.

In the meantime, the Baltimore County Planning Board approved the Solo Cup rezoning in a May 3 vote. Look for more controversy over this pending vote by the county council as the dog days of August begin.

Brian Gibbons, chairman and CEO of Greenberg Gibbons, said Thursday in an emailed statement the back-and-forth over the developments has been at times off-putting.

“From what we have seen, the information and collateral being distributed from special interest groups opposing Foundry Row are terribly misleading and in several cases totally fabricated. It’s disappointing and frustrating. So we don’t pay a lot of attention to them,” the statement said. “The truth is we’ve received overwhelming support for Foundry Row from the community.”

If the council approves the rezoning request, sources say a new challenge may be forthcoming: A petition drive to move the issue to referendum in 2014.

Gibbons called that possibility an “unfounded rumor,” but that move could potentially ice the Foundry Row development for years — if the land brawl doesn’t end up in circuit court before then. Stay tuned.

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A commercial real estate report issued this week from Mackenzie Commercial Real Estate Services LLC showed that the Baltimore metropolitan area’s business vacancy rate stagnated during the second quarter.

The 16.1 percent vacancy rate in the region for the quarter was unchanged from Q1, the report said. Last year, the second quarter vacancy rate was 15.9 percent.

Economist Anirban Basu wrote in the report that the stagnant vacancy rate may be a reflection of the post-BRAC “lull” or it may be a sign of continuing uncertainty by business owners in Central Maryland as the overall economic situation remains strained.

The report cited several commercial leasing highlights of the second quarter. Among them, a lease by the state for 4,702 square feet of office space in Hunt Valley and the IT company, The Seva Group, relocating to Brewer’s Hill from Tide Point in 3,500 square feet of space.

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OPENINGS: The unique and beautiful paper store Papyrus has opened in Annapolis Mall. Known for its hummingbird mascot, the store will stock gift bags and wrap, note cards, greeting cards, journals and small gift items in 1,096 square feet of space. The company started in the humble surroundings off of a kitchen table more than 60 years ago and now there are more than 170 stores in the U.S. … The Florida-based Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Company has opened up shop at 25 Hooks Lane in Pikesville. The company has a special gizmo that replicates the “purity, taste and temperature of water found in Brooklyn” to make New York-style bagels. The shop is the first Maryland location, and franchisee Bob Ammon says he plans to open two dozen more shops around the region and on the Eastern Shore over the next five years. … St. John Properties has inked a deal with defense contractor Computer Sciences Corporation for 26,000 square feet at 6200 Guardian Gateway in the Government and Technology Enterprise development at Aberdeen Proving Ground. The defense contractor will relocate from the Water’s Edge Corporate Campus in Aberdeen. … Mullan Contracting Co. just finished work on an 11,000-square foot fire station in Anne Arundel County near the intersection of Baltimore-Annapolis Blvd. and McGuirk Avenue in Glen Burnie. The $2.8 million station received $1.8 million in federal stimulus funds and was built on land donated by the county school board. It features three drive-through bays, a bunk house and, of course, a large kitchen.

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Cue the majestic Olympics theme song.

Baltimore’s Sam Gilley recently aced the “faucet repair” category in the finals of the 2012 Maintenance Mania National Championship in Boston.

Gilley is a maintenance supervisor for Continental Realty Corp. and is based at the Oaklee Village Apartments. His dexterity led him to win the challenge by replacing two ceramic cartridges and repairing two faucet handles in 13.27 seconds, besting 19 other finalists from around the U.S.

TIDBITS: Want to try your hand at rehabbing a vacant, dilapidated city house? The Baltimore Department of Housing and Community Development is holding a workshop on July 25 from 6-7 p.m. at the Southeast Anchor Library at 3601 Eastern Ave. in Highlandtown…The Maryland Washington Minority Contractors’ Association Inc. has sent out a missive to its members to move fast if they are interested in submitting bids for construction sub work at the Rocky Gap Casino and Resort. “Minority trade contractors willing to travel to western Maryland’s beautiful Allegany County to potentially work” should prepare for a fast-moving development, a release said this week. Minnesota-based Kraus-Anderson Construction Co. is heading the 55,000 square foot casino project, which will also include construction of an 180,000 square foot parking garage and renovation of a hotel.