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Neighborhoodsby Fern Shen1:21 pmJun 19, 20240

After a 12-year battle, Baltimore Zoning Board approves a Royal Farms gas station in Hamilton

Residents fighting the project at a busy intersection for more than a decade said it is too soon to say whether they will appeal the ruling

Above: Monique Smith at an October 2023 protest against Royal Farms’ proposed gas station and store in her northeast Baltimore neighborhood. (Fern Shen)

A proposed 24-hour Royal Farms gas station and convenience store on Harford Road, which the community had fought since 2012, got a thumbs-up from Baltimore’s Zoning Board.

By a vote of 4-1, the board approved the proposal by the convenience store’s corporate parent, Two Farms, Inc., to build the 12-pump gas station at a busy intersection in northeast Baltimore.

A dinosaur of a zoning dispute, the Harford Road Royal Farms case, is back (9/21/23)

At a meeting yesterday in which no new testimony was taken, the Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals voted to approve the project at 5901-21 Harford Road.

Voting yes: Chairman James Fields and board members Frank Bonaventure, David Marcozzi and Victor Clark.

Voting no: Board member Liz Cornish.

Community members reached today said they were disappointed by the decision, which came after lengthy testimony taken at previous hearings.

“This was striking because the city’s two agencies that weighed in here and are presumably neutral experts – the Planning Department and the Transportation Department – both said, ‘Don’t approve this project,’” said Anne Yastremski, president of the Hamilton Community Association.

“You would think the board would put more stock in that,” she said.

Longtime opponent Jane Backert said “it was a sad day in northeast Baltimore,” as news about the decision spread.

“Several gas stations within walking distance, and yet the zoning folks add another,” Backert wrote in an emailed comment. “For what purpose? To encourage our community to become a never-ending strip mall between downtown and the county?”

The Hamilton Hills Neighborhood Association, another group representing area residents, said in an email it was “incredibly disheartened” by the board’s decision.

“For over a decade we have stood with nearly every nearby community association in opposition to this development, as voted on by our members, and will continue to do so,” the group’s president, John Fowler, wrote.

Ryan Dorsey comments on the Baltimore Zoning Board's decision to approve the Hamilton Royal Farms project. (@ElectRyanDorsey)

Ryan Dorsey comments on the Baltimore Zoning Board’s decision to approve the Hamilton Royal Farms project. (@ElectRyanDorsey)

Councilman Ryan Dorsey, writing on X, blasted the board, calling its action “an absolute trash decision.”

Asked if the community will continue the legal battle via a Circuit Court appeal, Yastremski and Fowler said they could not say until the groups and their attorney can see the board’s written resolution following its decision.

The panel will memorialize its decision in a resolution and could possibly schedule a vote to adopt it in July, according to BMZA executive director Rebecca Witt.

At that point, she said, the community would have 30 days to file an appeal.

Reprising a group photo from a decade ago, opponents of the Harford Road Royal Farms project gather at the Mary Avenue intersection. (Fern Shen)

Reprising a group photo from more than a decade ago, opponents of the Harford Road Royal Farms project gather at the Mary Avenue intersection last year. (Fern Shen)

Long and Bitter Battle

The convenience store chain and residents have long been at odds over the plan, which has been opposed by nearly every community association in the area for the past 12 years.

Gas station plan a flashpoint for a neighborhood with aspirations (6/19/2012)

Opponents have said the gas station/convenience store would create a traffic hazard given its location at a complex intersection with an elementary school, homes, a library branch and retail shops close by.

Royal Farms has touted the project, in a currently empty lot, as a potential community asset and job generator.

• Opponents cry foul as long-awaited Hamilton Royal Farms Zoning Board hearing is postponed (12/1/23)

After years of legal twists and turns, delays and appeals, the case came before the board in February, where the testimony – not surprisingly for one of the city’s most bitter zoning battles – lasted nearly eight hours.

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