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Red Maple Place Controversy Headed To Court

John Lee
Site of proposed Red Maple Place at E. Joppa Road and Fairmount Avenue in Towson. Credit: John Lee

The legal twists and turns continue over whether an affordable housing apartment building can be built in historically Black East Towson.

The developer of Red Maple Place, Homes for America, said it has filed an appeal in circuit court to challenge a decision by the Baltimore County Board of Appeals that blocked the development.

In May, an administrative law judge ruled Red Maple Place could go forward. It would be a 56-unit complex at the intersection of Joppa Road and Fairmount Avenue on the edge of East Towson. The board of appeals overturned that decision in July, setting up the developer’s appeal to the circuit court.

Dana Johnson, the president of Homes for America, a nonprofit organization, said in a statement that they will argue to the circuit court why the administrative law judge’s decision was correct and why the board of appeals erred in overturning it.

"There is a real need for affordable housing in Baltimore County, and Red Maple Place, situated adjacent to the East Towson neighborhood boundaries, is proposed for an area of opportunity, offering its future residents access to public transportation, high quality schools, jobs, and more, Johnson said.

Fifth District Republican Councilman David Marks, who represents East Towson, said he was disappointed by the appeal.

“I had been hopeful the developer might have finally respected the community’s wishes,” Marks said in a statement.

Residents of East Towson have been battling the proposed apartment complex, saying the size and scope of it would threaten their neighborhood. Johnson disagrees with that assessment.

Some of the residents of East Towson, including Nancy Goldring, are descendants of slaves who once labored at nearby Hampton Plantation in Baltimore County. Goldring has described Red Maple as a big brick beast that will dominate the neighborhood.

At a hearing in January, Goldring said that the project was irresponsible.

“I totally do not understand the need to destroy one community to bring another one into being,” she said.

At that same hearing, Anthony Fugett, the past president of the Baltimore County branch of the NAACP, spoke in favor of Red Maple. He said the county has a horrific history when it comes to affordable housing.

“If you say, ‘not in my neighborhood,’ and you use that as an argument per se, then you have to accept that argument anywhere,” Fugett said. “That’s something that as a branch we couldn’t accept, so we had to be in favor of the Red Maple development.”

In 2016, Fugett, representing the NAACP, signed on to an agreement with the Department of Housing and Urban Development that settled a housing discrimination complaint against Baltimore County. It legally obligates the county to create 1,000 affordable housing units over 15 years. Red Maple’s 56 units would help the county whittle away at that number.

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2
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