Woodies' mall appeal is dismissed Retailer vows to keep fighting expansion

January 28, 1993|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Staff Writer

Woodward & Lothrop Inc. lost another round yesterday in its continuing fight against Annapolis Mall's expansion, but vowed to go the distance to protect its business, workers and customers.

Finding that Woodies lacked standing, the Anne Arundel County Board of Appeals dismissed the retailer's challenge of plans for a Nordstrom and 50 smaller shops, and of the mall's permit to build the addition for those shops.

In a separate case yesterday, the five-member board, on the same grounds, unanimously dismissed a food and commercial local's appeal of Nordstrom's building permit. Local 400 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which represents workers at the Annapolis Woodies, did not attend the hearing after the board last week denied the local's postponement request.

After the unanimous decision on Woodies' appeal, Woodies attorney Neil T. Proto, visibly angered, would say only that "Woodward and Lothrop will do everything it can to protect its interests, its employees and its customers."

The Michigan-based retailer, which has a store in Parole Plaza a half-mile from the mall, is charging in several pending legal actions that state and Anne Arundel County officials ignored due process and conspired with mall developers to sidestep environmental laws. Yesterday's appeal, filed Dec. 7, challenged a permit allowing construction of a 120,000-square-foot mall addition.

Kathryn Dahl, attorney for mall owner Annapolis Mall Limited Partnership, compared Woodies numerous challenges throughout the mall development process to a "yet untitled play," with the mall cast as a "reluctant actor" and Woodies playing the "aggressive and persistent producer and director."

"This is a play that should never see Broadway," Ms. Dahl said. "I urge you to turn thumbs down in your review of the appeal and turn Woodward and Lothrop back to the dressing room."

She convinced the board that the retailer lacked standing to file an appeal because it does not sit adjacent to the mall and would be no more harmed by a gridlocked Parole than any other area resident or business.

John Britton, a Woodies attorney, countered that mall expansion violates traffic and environmental standards in the county's Parole growth plan. County officials have continued to deny those charges.

Mall expansion, which is under way, will dump 16,000 additional vehicle trips on an already overloaded downtown, Mr. Britton said.

"Woodward and Lothrop is interested in not having its customer access restricted because of an expansion that is in violation of the law," Mr. Britton said.

"It's not a matter of competition. It's not a matter of cutting out competition to gain more market share," he argued. "Traffic congestion and the increase in travel time for our customers decreases our market area."

Mr. Britton had come prepared to present five expert witnesses, but the board never heard them.

The board decided in closed session to permit testimony solely on the question of standing, refusing to hear testimony on how increased traffic and Woodies' role as taxpayer gave the retailer legal standing.

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