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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.

Photo by Patrick Smith, courtesy of Towson Times

Photo by Patrick Smith, courtesy of Towson Times

What would you do if we grabbed a bite to eat a McDonalds. I got a Big Mac, you got a 10-piece chicken McNugget meal. I finished eating and you still have a few nuggets left after devouring all of those delicious fries. You say “I’m going to eat these later.” Then I reach over, grab one and shove it in my mouth. “What? It’s not like you were using it.”

Keep that parable in mind here.

The ink has long dried on the memorandum of understanding between Rodgers Forge and Towson University regarding the plans for the new arena expansion off of the Towson Center, but problems haven’t ended. In an article by Loni Ingraham in the Towson Times this week, the property line where Towson agreed to erect an impenetrable fence at the request of RF is being disputed.

Read Loni’s story and forumulate your own opinion, please, but I can’t help but be a bit confused by the whole situation. As a quick synopsis, Rodgers Forge families have been accessorizing their backyards for years, one of which has been turned into a small community park.

The catch, they were building on University property.

Now, once again, the University is the big bad guy coming in to destroy their beloved park. Maybe before they dropped $20k on the landscaping and such they should have been good neighbors, contacted the University, held several public meetings, talked to their legislators, have closed door meetings, negotiate an agreement and sign an MOU.

I really don’t understand how RF can be upset with Towson for doing what they were instructed to: build a fence. And I can’t comprehend out it’s the University’s fault that RF residents built on their property.

There’s a solution, though. For PR purposes, Towson can’t demolish their park. While it is it bit ridiculous that RF is upset at Towson wanting to use the land that they own, it’s hard to change their minds. They have emotions (and cash) invested in the land. Since Towson isn’t using the land, and since signing the MOU nothing will be built there either, offer to sell the strip of land at a below-market rate to the Rodgers Forge Community Association. Then, invest the money spent on the property into Town & Gown initiatives be it community clean ups or grants to BCPD for an increased presence late on party nights.

Now, I’m sure there are major snags here since it’s state property. If Towson was a private college, they’d have the rights to sell the land, but that’s not the case. This would have to go through years of paperwork from the USM and maybe even the General Assembly. At the same time, Towson may be under state pressure to not allow the neighbors to use the land and take back their property line. If the University turned over rights to the land through some handshake understanding, they could be in hot water with the USM.

Maybe everybody should just keep their hands off your chicken McNuggets

The fun part has begun. It’s the Q&A session. The community has come out swinging once again. They want to know where all of the additional students are going to be housed.
Pat Foretich of Rodgers Forge is upset because right now only 50 percent of full-time undergrads will be housed on campus. This is actually 10 percent above the national average, however, at the size of Towson’s campus, it would mean as many as 7,000 students living in the surrounding communities.
There has also been the suggestion thrown out there that the University should build on the wetlands behind the Towson Center and the auxiliary practice fields. This land runs right up against Rodgers Forge. RF just spent the last two months fighting to keep the Towson Center addition from behind built too close to their property, but now they are talking about wanting to put student housing there. This doesn’t make any sense for either side. It’s an example of a Lose-Lose. TU loses because they have to lose an ecological preserve. RF loses because you are adding maybe 1,000 students as next door neighbors.
This is the discovery phase of the Master Plan update process. I guess all pitches have to be heard. Not all of them would work or make sense.

Just got out of a meeting with President Robert Caret. Amid conversation concerning provost James Clements’ hiring as president at WVU, the men’s basketball team’s CAA run and the Obama stimulus package, discussion of tonight’s Master Plan update meeting came up.
The meeting in the Minnegan Room that is open to any and all comers interested in the future plans for Towson University could turn into a near riot like the Towson Center expansion meeting did two months ago. Caret said he thinks that the work the University did with Rodgers Forge went a long way with restoring some confidence in the school’s communication with the neighborhood.
“That meeting in January did what it was supposed to do. It gave us a chance to hear the concerns, we sat down and talked about them, and then we made a change. I understand why they were upset. I would have been upset, too, if I were them. That’s why we now are going to build it in a different place. It’s a little more expensive, but it’s a better place for all involved.”
If tonight’s meeting is as diplomatic as Caret hopes it will be, it may be evidence of some sort of mutual satisfaction on each side of this Town & Gown heavyweight fight. I am just curious if there is another dress code like last time when all wore red (including this blogger).

After finishing off my last post, I just realized that my novice nature with WordPress led me to not publishing this from a week or so ago. Here it is.


If you had a chance to read The Baltimore Sun’s feature on the front page of the You section about President Robert Caret, you’d think the New Englander was on the verge of curing cancer. He’s a chemist by trade, actually, so it may actually be more fitting to think he discovered a new element. Nonetheless, it was as much of a puff piece as you’ll ever see.
Now as a Towson student, I am very impressed with Caret’s work. This campus wouldn’t be as vibrant a place as it is without his guidance from the top. My gagging during while reading the article isn’t a criticism of Caret as much as it is an indictment on how The Sun has failed to recognize Towson in recent years and attempted to amend the mistake with a massive photo and all-encompassing article.
The time of the piece is what really took my by surprise. Towson has been at odds with the surrounding community for quite some time and it recently boiled over with the Towson Center negotiations. It’s the middle of the legislative session and an bill targeting TU will be presented Tuesday. Judging from the GTCCA meeting Thursday night, the community and administration (namely Ed Kilcullen and Marina Cooper) won’t be sharing cookie recipes over a hot cup of tea anytime soon.
Shockingly, The Sun quoted Rodgers Forge president Janice Moore commenting on Caret in what, out of context, was a complimentary manner. Seemed a bit surprising to me coming from a woman that has been understandably reluctant to trust University higher ups. While she may have a level of admiration for his “drive” and “ambition” as she is quoted in the article, the relationship between RF and the President isn’t as positive as the article made it seem.
Caret may be the leader that the campus truly needs to become a major force in the region. But he article sure makes him seem like a conquering hero that has taken Towson to the top to unanimous support. This is hardly the case.

This Wednesday the University will be hosting a public meeting to discuss the 2010 Master Plan.

The meeting will be in the Minnegan Room at the Johnny Unitas Stadium Field House at 6:30 p.m. Towson planners, architects and facilities representatives will be there to present the plans as they stand and gather feedback from any and all in attendance. At least that’s the idea.

Last time a public meeting was held, the Rodgers Forge Community showed up in unified red colors with a sign and an agenda of their own. VP and CFO Jim Sheehan was berated for more than an hour for errors the University had made when communicating plans for the Towson Center Arena expansion. These included tearing out trees at 8 a.m. on New Year’s Eve without notifying neighbors and sending out a copy of the plans with an incorrect date which would said the document was prepared two years earlier than it actually was.

Towson’s Master Plan crew spoke to the GTCCA last week with what I’ve been told is essentially the same presentation. They gathered feedback and asked for the representatives bring more feedback back to this meeting as well.

Towerlight will have a full report the next day so pick up the print issue or check online. I’ll bring some of my observations here, too.

It may just be a “baby step” as Janice Moore, president of the Rodgers Forge Community Association, put it, but at least, it’s a step in the right direction. The RF residents and a few University officials were on hand for the signing of a memorandum of understanding regarding the Towson Center Arena expansion Thursday night in the lobby of the controversial complex.
While both sides laughed and joked, before the RF residents went out for a few cocktails in celebration, the overall feeling of the event seemed a bit tense. While the lights were and the display was set with the official Towson athletics background, everybody was happy-go-lucky. Afterward though, it was clear that RF came out of this feeling like the victors as University officials moved toward the doors as soon as the ink met the documents.
RF residents gladly huddled around for another 45 minutes as some fans arrived for the women’s basketball game at 7 p.m. The victory in regard to the Towson Center, though, is just a small part of the greater problem. Fact is, the community still feels pushed to the back burner by the University. Even though President Caret signed the document, it’s still just and agreement; not a finalized project plan. Things can still change, and as we’ve seen with the Towson Center construction (which began as a small renovation and grew to a $30 million renovation to finally a new arena) anything can change at any time.

I’m not sure what to expect. Three weeks ago a hostile crowd dressed in all red filled the Towson Center in protest of the arena expansion plans. Hecklers hollered from the seats, while those standing the back barked out remarks that probably shouldn’t be repeated. In short, the last word I would have used to describe the setting was “understanding.” Today, in less than three hours, the scene will again be the Towson Center. This time, in the lobby outside of the arena, it should be a gathering of warm happy feelings. An oddly abrupt twist I must say. TU President Robert Caret will be there this time, unlike the Jan. 21 meeting when VP Jim Sheehan was left to hang for the University’s miscommunication. Caret and representatives from Rodgers Forge will sign a Memorandum of Understanding on plans for the new arena expansion. The new plans for the 5,000-seat basketball facility will now cost more than the budgeted $45.4 million. Where this extra money will come from is only a guess at this point. Seeing all of the teeth reflecting the flashbulbs from the event will be an bizarre site. We’ll see how long this mutual appreciation lasts.