Local business woman objects to Fort Meade Burger King WEST COUNTY -- Crofton * Odenton * Fort Meade * Gambrills

February 01, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

Fast food at Fort Meade is giving heartburn to at least one West County business woman.

Burger King formally opened its doors Friday on the Odenton Army post, complete with balloons, brass and burgers.

But while Col. Kent D. Menser, the garrison commander, hailed the new restaurant as "an example of growth at Fort Meade," Mary Chewning couldn't help feeling that the restaurant forces local businesses into unfair competition against a government-run enterprise.

"The local business base will be destroyed," said Ms. Chewning, whose husband is a major landowner in Odenton. "It's just not right."

The Burger King, located behind the commissary near Mapes Road and Rose Street, is operated by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, which operates on its own revenue, not tax dollars.

Officials said Friday that Fort Meade expects to receive $163,000 from the restaurant this year, which will be spent on programs and sports for soldiers and their dependants.

"I think we work as hard as any military installation on working with the community," Colonel Menser said in an interview, adding that the base is trying to attract tenants to bolster its new role as an administrative post.

"It means we have to have more support services on the installation," he said. "People who live on this post eat all over Anne Arundel County. I really don't believe this Burger King will have a negative impact on area businesses."

The exchange service operates 120 Burger Kings worldwide under a single franchise agreement. The one at Fort Meade had been under consideration for five years and cost $611,106 -- none of it tax money.

Because Fort Meade is an open base, anyone can eat at the restaurant. Of the 67 employees, about 40 are military dependants. The rest are civilians with no connection to the military or Fort Meade.

Ms. Chewning said she is concerned that local business owners will be unable to compete if the base offers the same items, which may be cheaper because state sales tax does not apply on the post.

"Many of the facilities at Fort Meade are duplications of businesses in the private sector," she wrote in a letter to Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat. "I don't know how anyone could think that this being the case, it would not affect the businesses and the tax base of this area."

Ms. Chewning also noted that, a few months ago, a Burger King on Route 175 near the post's main entrance closed and is now boardered up. She contends the fast-food company closed that restaurant because it would be cheaper to open on a military base where property taxes don't apply.

Burger King and Fort Meade officials denied any connection between the closure of the Route 175 Burger King and the opening of the restaurant on post. Lou Hyatt, owner of Hyatt Reality, which owns the Route 175 property, said the franchise owners went bankrupt.

Don McClow, a Fort Meade spokesman, said base officials have not heard complaints from other business owners. He also said other small restaurants located just outside the post exchange -- which is closed to civilians -- are open to the general public.

"It's not like all of a sudden we have some new businesses that we never had before," he said. Exchange service officials said they keep prices competitive with similar restaurants in the area.

Friday, most of those concerns were put aside while people of all military ranks and their families packed the restaurant for cake, doughnuts, coffee and, of course, lunch.

"I think it's convenient and nice," said Bonnie Johnson, who lives on post and brought her grandson, 3-year-old Michael Alexander Julian, in for lunch.

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