Los Angeles Times

Letter: Medical offices meet need and zoning requirements in Catonsville with new traffic signal a bonus

It's always an education being in the same room with Paul Dongarra, so let's parse his editorial comments ("Space available, but community OK lacking for medical offices," Catonsville Times, Jan.4) about our community input meeting to see if he has any clue what he's talking about.

First, I don't know how you put a medical office development project closer to a "transportation hub" than setting it directly on a Beltway ramp, four minutes from a hospital, and backing it up to an interstate highway with volumes of 230,000 vehicles per day.

Our property has been zoned office since 1984, before any protesting condo owner across Kenwood Avenue ever lived there.

Prior to that, it was zoned for high-density apartments or offices by special exception.

In no reasonable person's mind is this public open space; au contraire, it is privately owned, commercially zoned and has been so virtually forever.

Paul's medical office vacancy statistics are laughably misleading.

Sorry, but the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Tech Park does not permit doctors' offices. That use does not conform to its covenants nor the park's mission, per its executive director.

Aggregating a bunch of small, disparate vacant space statistics from our region does nothing to accommodate medical tenants requiring 20,000 square feet or more of contiguous space, who simply cannot find blocks that size available in our market.

The Benson Avenue offices he references are going to be vacated, one way or the other. They don't meet the current medical occupants' needs and only the user is qualified to determine which spaces work.

By the way, it isn't in Arbutus, nor even Baltimore County. Their current building happens to be in Baltimore City.

The first concern on everyone's list whenever development is proposed? Traffic.

Our neighbors were no exception.

We made it very clear in all our discussions, presentations, and written Planned Unit Development submissions to the county that a traffic light at Wilkens and Kenwood avenues can only be installed if approved by the State Highway Administration.

If SHA says no, it doesn't happen.

We've pointedly said all along that we perceive no significant traffic capacity issues at this location.

However, our traffic engineer feels that existing traffic management can be improved significantly by installation of properly engineered signalization.

Even though current volumes may not meet SHA requirements for signalization, volume is not the only consideration.

Both left turn movements, from southbound Kenwood Avenue onto Wilkens Avenue headed toward the city, and from Wilkens left onto Kenwood, congest significantly at rush hours.

Appropriate signal design will alleviate these problems by providing better traffic management, making the intersection safer.

We are actively negotiating with SHA, hoping to persuade them our proffer makes sense.

Why would Whalen Properties frivolously invest a quarter million dollars in non-mandatory signalization unless we were convinced our traffic engineer's recommendation will make for smoother, safer traffic flow?

It is a potential PUD community benefit precisely because we are not being required by any governmental agencies to install the signal, but are nonetheless willing to do so at our expense to improve traffic in the immediate neighborhood.

Stephen Whalen Jr.

Whalen Properties

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