Country life vs. the golden arches Hereford to vote on McDonald's

September 19, 1993|By Patrick Gilbert | Patrick Gilbert,Staff Writer

The people of Hereford, a rural town in northern Baltimore County, aren't sure they're ready for the golden arches and the smell of frying hamburgers.

Early next month, the local community association will vote on whether it wants a McDonald's.

Company representatives, who have mentioned one location off Interstate 83 at Mount Carmel and York roads, came to town Tuesday night to gauge community support. They found the audience at the Hereford Community Association meeting hotly divided.

"A McDonald's would draw traffic off the interstate and through our community. I can see the benefit to McDonald's, but where is the benefit to the community?" asked Patricia Chilcoat, a longtime Here ford resident. "Traffic is already too congested on Mount Carmel road."

Carl Yarema, owner of the Hereford Center, said: "There are no real sit-down restaurants in Hereford and I think we need more food outlets here. . . . I think it's foolish to automatically keep out new business."

Francis X. Strasser, head of real estate acquisition for McDonald's in the Baltimore region, told residents McDonald's has been interested in Hereford for a couple of years. There are no fast-food restaurants along I-83 between Hunt Valley and Shrewsbury, Pa., he said, adding that Hereford, with its 4,000 residents and quick access to I-83, is an ideal location.

"But first, we want to know if we are wanted here," he told residents.

Those opposing the plan cited traffic congestion, litter and the smell of frying hamburgers as reasons why they don't welcome a fast-food restaurant.

"A McDonald's cookie-cutter restaurant is completely out of step with the rural character of our community," said Don Pearce, president of the community association.

Two years ago, the county adopted a 10-year community plan for Hereford. Drawn up by community residents with the help of the county Office of Planning and Zoning, it recommended land uses for Hereford. Though the plan designated Hereford as the commercial hub for the northern part of the county, it said drive-through restaurants were inappropriate. The plan also said commercial building designs must maintain Hereford's rural character.

Horace Palmer, a local electrical contractor, said everyone didn't agree with the decision to prohibit drive-through restaurants. Mr. Palmer, who chaired the zoning subcommittee that worked on the Hereford plan, said his committee recommended allowing drive-through restaurants, but the recommendation was later defeated.

Most of the people who voted against the committee's recommendation were from community associations outside Hereford, Mr. Palmer said.

Jeff Long, community planner for northern Baltimore County, said that even though the Office of Planning and Zoning would likely support the recommendation against allowing drive-through restaurants, that would not automatically stop a McDonald's.

He noted that the county zoning commissioner granted a special zoning exception for a used car lot in the Liberty Road corridor, even though the community said used car lots were inappropriate.

"The zoning commissioner ruled that the community plan was advisory only," Mr. Long said. "So I guess McDonald's could push ahead despite the Hereford plan."

Mr. Pearce said his association would vote on the McDonald's issue at its next meeting Oct. 12. Voters must be paid members of the association and live within the association's boundaries.

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