Elkridge group fights flea market plan

March 29, 1994|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Sun Staff Writer

Plans to build a flea market on the site of the former Elkridge Drive-In have angered a group of Elkridge residents who say such operations attract "unsavory people," generate trash and tie up traffic.

Meanwhile, owners and developers Barry and Charu Mehta have agreed to let the Elkridge Business and Professional Association use the 17-acre site off Route 1 for a nominal fee for the Elkridge Days Carnival in June.

The flea market is the latest proposal for the site owned by the Columbia developers. The couple also plans to build a retirement community and fast-food restaurant there.

At a meeting last week, members of the Elkridge Community Association criticized Mr. Mehta and his plans to create a weekend flea market.

"What's the benefit to the community?" asked Ron Tilkens, a Montgomery Woods resident. "It's an eyesore. It's a traffic problem. It's a mess."

Some residents said they plan to speak against the proposal at a Board of Appeals hearing scheduled for May 3.

The Mehtas are applying for a special exception to operate the flea market on five acres of their property during the weekends from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. If the Board of Appeals grants the special exception, Mr. Mehta said he and his wife would be sensitive to residents' concerns.

"We will run a nice, clean operation that won't be an eyesore to anybody," Mr. Mehta said.

But audience members, who said they have been stung in the past by Mr. Mehta's attempts to develop his property, questioned his credibility.

"I'm mad as hell," David Maier, a Montgomery Road resident, said during the meeting. "Why should we even trust you?"

Yesterday,Mr. Maier said he has lost confidence in Mr. Mehta because Mr. Mehta has failed to deliver on past plans, including a Taco Bell restaurant that was supposed to be part of the retirement community.

"He's had so many ideas and he never follows through on them," Mr. Maier said.

But Mr. Mehta said some residents are still angry about his efforts, dating back as far as 1985, to rezone his property from planned, office, and research use to business, originally without informing residents of his plans.

"I think that has left some bad blood," he said.

The property currently is zoned for business and for nursing homes, banks, medical offices, laboratories and other office-type uses.

Mr. Mehta said he still is working on plans to build a retirement community on the site, but would like to use the flea market to raise money to help pay the fees of senior citizens who can't afford to attend the elderly day-care center he and his wife operate in Catonsville.

The developer also said he wants to use proceeds from the proposed flea market to contribute money to his church, Grace Episcopal, and "any worthwhile causes in Elkridge."

Mr. Mehta also told those at last week's meeting that a Popeye's restaurant would open on the site early next year. The Mehtas will use the restaurant to obtain capital for roads, utilities, and sewer and water pipes for the senior citizen housing complex.

The couple also will let the Elkridge Business and Professional Association rent the property for a nominal fee to operate the Elkridge Days Carnival, which runs June 13-18 this year.

Under a three-year deal with the Mehtas, the business group will rent the site for $1 a year in return for razing a 60-by-40-foot abandoned building on the site.

Bob Boardman, president of the business group, said the deal will save his organization nearly $1,000 a year. The deal could be extended for another four years if the Mehtas' special exception is granted, he said.

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