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Today is the last day of classes for the spring semester at TU, so it’s probably a good time to review the last year in Town & Gown relations.

 

Homecoming tailgate – After the 2007 fiasco that spilled into the community, Towson administrators did what they could to squelch and problems (and fun) from the event. There were significantly less people attending the annual tailgate. Presumably there was less underage drinking and parties in the community still occurred, but from reports, weren’t any worse than last year. And that’s all we can ask for, right?

 

 Crime in the bar district – Alcohol related incidents continued to increase this year. As of the fall, public intoxication, underage drinking, fake IDs, public urination and DUI had all increased in the bar district among Towson students. The community gripes that those caught are just a few of the offenders as many drunken students make their way back to houses in the residential neighborhoods. The University tells community members that they should call 911 and the Towson Life Line for assistance. Neighbors haven’t and won’t be satisfied with either response.

  

The Great Arena Battle – Beginning at the end of January, Rodgers Forge made it very clear that they did NOT want the University to expand the Towson Center in the manner that was planned. Noise and parking were the two biggest complaints. The key problem, though, was the lack of communication. RF residents found out about the plans through the Baltimore Sun and/or trees being ripped out from behind their houses at 8 a.m. on New Years Eve. After two closed-door meetings, the sides agreed on moving the site to the opposite side of the Arena. It meant more costs for Towson, but relieving the headache was worth it. That’s one expensive Tylenol. The sides signed an MOU. We’ll see how long it lasts.

  

That’s part one in my review series. Check back for more tidbits on Tigerfest and rental properties.

About a month ago when I sat down with Nancy Hafford from the Towson Chamber, she said that Forbes Magazine’s latest listing of the nation’s “Most Livable” cities included Towson.

Really? That’s what I said.

Just looked it up. She was partially correct. Towson is lumped in as “Baltimore/Towson,” which is an interesting pairing nonetheless. TU has billed itself for the last few years at a “Metropolitan” University, pumping up its association with the city and its abundance of resources.

Fact is, Towson is minutes from the city line and students do get a chance to take advantage of some of its greatest opportunities; both professionally and socially.

The social aspect is obvious. When uptown is too small town for a party-loving student, he/she can head downtown to the Inner Harbor. Professionally, though, TU has taken full advantage of partnerships with major businesses in Baltimore and the students have benefited from that as well. Internship and job placement opportunities remain strong in Baltimore despite the recession.

While Towson surely loves the fact that they are considered among the “Most Livable” places in the nation, I don’t know how much they’d appreciate the pairing. Baltimore can also be synonymous with crime, traffic, drug abuse and general unrest.

I guess it’s a situation where it depends on how you see the glass: Half empty or half full?

[Satire]

Great. Just great.

The Towson community used their political clout to get their way again. Since people in these parts can’t stop reproducing and the neighborhood has thrived, leading to more young families moving into the area, they are being rewarded with a new elementary school. The Baltimore Sun reported last week that there is going to be a new school built on Charles Street next to the Ridge Ruxton School… West Towson Elementary.

Great. Just great.

Can you imagine the traffic that’s going to occur there? I love Charles Street and drive it every day when commuting to campus. I can probably navigate 695 with my eyes closed and know exactly where exit 25 is. Maybe I’ll try that sometime and see how it goes.

But back to my point. Traffic is going to be absurd. I can see it now. All of those young moms with their bulky minivans driving slowly in the right-hand lane trying to turn in and out. Then you have the school buses. Oh boy are they going to slow everything down. It’s rough enough driving that road without big cheese-colored buses driving snot-nosed kids around. It’s going to make my life so difficult. I don’t know how to handle it.

And to think, it could be solved so easily. If these young families would stop flooding this collegetown with their small children that for some reason need to be educated, then it would all be solved. We wouldn’t need to spend tax-payer dollars to build a school, hire teachers, bus drivers, and all of those other unneeded positions.

Why can’t the community just learn to live within its means and stick to the schools they already have? Why do they have to pop out all of these kids and then build another school? And is it really that bad with the overcrowded schools?

When I was in grade school, every year there were trailers. I even spent fourth grade in a trailer behind the school grounds. It was really hot in the summer and we wore our jackets in the winter to keep warm, but it was fun. I was fine. I earned A’s and moved my way through to receive a college education.

I really think the community should have brought this issue to those that commute along Charles Street every day. We are stakeholders in that street, too. We should have a say in what goes up on that road. And I for one, don’t want to see Bob the Builder bookbags when I’m driving to class.

And think about the ambulances going to the hospitals! What’s going to happen when they can’t get up the road because of a school bus clogging up traffic?

Great. Just great.

Attendance for the Towsontown Spring Festival last weekend was less than a third of what it was the year before. The Towson Times is reporting that only 70,000 people turned out for this year’s street fair, which was flooded by constantly and steady rain.

Last year, the largest annual outdoor event in Towson drew more than 250,000 people. Last year, the second day of the event drew 100,000 people alone. This year, it was just 10 percent of that total: only 10,000 people braved the rain.

This was a shocking total to me. I figured that while attendance would be down, such a steep drop wouldn’t occur. Towson loves this festival so much that I assumed they’d throw on a poncho, strap on the rain boots and grab a umbrella in order to go out for a pit beef sandwich or a corndog. The last week has been miserable for weather. Of course, as I look out the window now, the sun is shining just to spite this post.

I’m finishing up some projects, preparing for finals, just like the rest of Towson’s student body. Tigerfest has passed, as has the Towsontown Festival. The academic year is winding to a close and I’m sure the local neighborhoods couldn’t be happier.

It’s been proven through police reports that as the summer heats up, the town of Towson cools off. Students move home between semesters, out of the apartment complexes and out of the residential communities. This means that there will be more parking spaces on neighborhood streets.

While the spring semester is often one of the busiest for Towson Citizens on Patrol as they drive the neighborhoods looking for trouble, especially on Tigerfest Weekend, May tends to be a rather quiet month.

The community pushed for, and received, more classes on Friday mornings because, in theory, fewer students will party Thursday night if they have to get up early the next day. It’s slower in May for the same reason. As I said before, when you have three 10-page research papers and two finals to cram for, there isn’t much time to pee on your next door neighbors yard, slash their tires, or abduct their children (obviously hyperbolic, but I can never be sure).

What do big greasy cheeseburgers cause? Obesity? Diabetes? Traffic? Wait, hold on a second. One of these doesn’t fit.

In standard practice, a member of the Towson community has decided that it’s time to stop progress. Progress may be the wrong word, because after eating a delicious Five Guys double cheeseburger with small fries, I don’t feel like moving forward. I feel like lying down and sleeping for a week. But that’s not the point. Nancy Pivec is trying to stop all of those burger joints from coming into Towson.

Her reason? Five Guys, and Burger King are going to bring “nMmmmm... Five Guysoise, traffic and trash” to York Road accordig to the Towson Times. What!?!? Maybe if York Road planners were concerned with noise and traffic, they wouldn’t have brought an on ramp to I-695 to Towson’s main drag. But that’s been there for decades. So it’s not like these weren’t worries along York.

And how are fast food joints going to increase trash? York Road is littered (pun intended) with plenty of eateries.

All of this really makes me wonder just how bad people in Towson really think they have it. If the biggest concerns this town has is a thriving major state institution and too many burger joints, then Towson may truly be Baltimore’s Utopia.

A few weeks ago I talked to Nancy Hafford from the Towson Chamber about the influx of new faces coming into the Towson are and how the business community would respond. Most thought that it was just students that would be flooding Towson and filling up the new apartment complexes. As a “seasoned” news reporter I should have known that this was not the case. As any area news monger worth a darn knows that anything somehow involves BRAC.

The Base Realignment that will bring thousands to work in Harford County around the Aberdeen Proving Grounds will also bring many to Northern Baltimore County. For those white collar members of BRAC that wish to be a little closer to a city feel would love Towson. Its right by 695 for a short trip up into Harford County and it’s halfway from work toward downtown Baltimore.

The Towson Times wrote this week about a bus trip of potential newcomers that was shown around Towson. According to the article, many of the short-term employees may maintain their homes in New Jersey, but live during the week in apartments only to commute back to the Garden State for weekends to see family.

While these workers would be ideal for the buildings renting out apartments, it isn’t exactly what the business community would want, I imagine. These types are not likely to stay for the weekend and spend money. Neighborhood leaders also would surely prefer families that get involved in communities and better the area.

Of course, I’m sure anything would be better than a student living in the house.

Aren’t the spring showers supposed to be gone by May? I was looking forward a weekend of sunshine at the Towsontown Spring Festival, but Mother Nature had other feelings.
According to Towerlight senior writer Nick DiMarco, 30 percent of the scheduled vendors didn’t show up on Sunday when it rained all day. It kinda defeated the purpose of the event as a whole. I really wanted to get out for some Mother’s Day shopping (what mom doesn’t love an arts and crafts project for her special day) but my mom will just have to settle for breakfast and a gift card.
Nonetheless, more than 400 exhibits lined the streets of uptown Towson. Last year, nearly a quarter of a million people turned out for the event. Attendance was down, but more than a hundred thousand still roamed the streets in search of the perfect pit beef sandwich or one-of-a-kind woodwork.

Any day now, the University will be releasing the results of the most recent phase of the Master Plan update process. For the last few months, representatives from Facilities Management have been meeting with stakeholders on and off campus to gather feedback, and those findings will be posted on the University’s Web site.

Every five years, the University System of Maryland requires each campus to revisit its Master Plan. This is different from the TU 2010 Plan. The Master Plan aims to outline long term construction goals for the campus. Major components of TU’s Master Plan is the continued development of the West Village housing complex, the completion of the new College of Liberal Arts complex and the creation of the campus’s “new front door” along Towsontown Boulevard.

With the information that is provided in the report presented in the next week, the decision makers within the University administration will determine any changes, no matter how minor they may be, to the Master Plan. I really don’t expect to see any shocking alterations. West Village and CLA will continue to go up, Smith Hall will still be renovated and a plaza will be opened up along Towsontown Boulevard.

This is still just one step in the grand process. President Caret and his team will present the results of the Master Plan update in the fall to the USM Board of Regents. By then, we’ll have a more clear idea of what campus may look like during the next 10-15 years.