Residents defeat plan to build Super Kmart

December 27, 1992|By Frank Lynch | Frank Lynch,Staff Writer

Super Kmart will not be coming to Bel Air -- at least not to the 60-acre site opposite the Motor Vehicle Administration on the west side of state Route 24.

That news brought cheer to the nearly 500 residents of four communities who had signed petitions to keep the project from becoming a reality.

"I feel as though Christmas came early," said Stuart K. Everngam, whose property backs the commercial tract owned by Bel Air Land Development Limited Partnership II and Bel Air Land Development Limited Partnership V.

"I realize that land will be developed over the next several years," he said, "but I just want the developers and the town commissioners to stay within the terms of the agreement they made when the town annexed the land."

It was just such a decision by the Bel Air Board of Town Commissioners Monday night that thwarted the arrival of Super Kmart. Commissioner Philip Raub quashed an attempt to amend the original annexation resolution, which extended the town's corporate boundaries in 1989.

The annexation document states that the property would be used for a hotel-motel, convention center, offices, restaurant, bank, bookstore, newsstand and drugstore. It prohibits development of a strip shopping center unless approved by the commissioners.

Michael V. Treherne, who with Mr. Everngam organized community opposition to the project, also was pleased by the board's decision.

"It is apparent the commissioners placed a great deal of emphasis on the feelings of the community," he said. "I think it was the only proper action they could take."

He said the community had been prepared for a long fight.

Mark Decker, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, said it was a "tough call" but felt the board made the correct decision.

"At first, the project looked terrific," he said. "But after comparing the added $70,000 tax revenues it would generate and the cost to the town for added police and trash services, I felt the town wouldn't be gaining a great deal."

Mr. Decker added that this is not the first time the commissioners have made such a decision. He said that the same developers wanted a similar change to develop a day-care center on land designated for low-income housing and office space.

A spokesman for the Bel Air Land Development Limited Partnership said he is sympathetic to the concerns of residents living near the site of the proposed Super Kmart.

"It is only natural for people to be concerned about what is to be built near their homes," said Chester L. Price, a general partner in BALD II and V.

"While I believe developers have a right to try to do what they consider best from an economical standpoint, I also recognize the right of the property owner to protect their interest," he said.

"I plan on contacting community leaders every time we feel we have a project that may be considered questionable."

Mr. Price was also surprised by the decision of the commissioners. "I thought we made an outstanding presentation the commissioners earlier this month and left the meeting with a feeling the project would move forward," he said. "Obviously, the commissioners had second thoughts."

Representatives of BALD II and BALD V met with town officials Dec. 2 at a closed meeting, then briefed area residents the same day.

That closed meeting prompted Mr. Treherne, president of the Fairwind Farms Homeowners' Association, to file a written complaint with the state's Open Meeting Compliance Board, asking for a review of the meeting.

Chase Management Corp., representing Kmart Corp., was hoping to develop a 15-acre parcel on the 60-acre site.

The 169,000-square-foot Super Kmart Center would have cost $14 million and created 750 full- and part-time jobs, according to Mr. Price.

Kmart has two 50,000-square-foot discount department stores in Harford County, at Beards Hill Shopping Center in Aberdeen and Tollgate Mall in Bel Air.

The company will open a 108,000-square-foot store in Joppatowne Shopping Plaza next year.

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