The county commissioners said yesterday they will allow Wal-Mart to begin building in Eldersburg, but only after company officials agreed to install a traffic light at the store entrance on Liberty Road.
The commissioners held up work at the site, at Routes 32 and 26, last week because they were concerned that the shopping center entrance on Route 26 (Liberty Road) would make the already-busy intersection more dangerous.
Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said at a meeting at the County Office Building yesterday that a traffic light would make it safer for motorists to make left turns in and out of the shopping center. Despite accepting the compromise, however, the county officials remain concerned.
"If Wal-Mart is a success, it's going to be a [traffic] problem," said Mr. Brown, who insisted last week that no left turns be allowed.
A Wal-Mart official said last week that the company preferred no traffic light at the intersection, but that the company would pay for one if the commissioners required it.
A light would cost $100,000, said J. Michael Davis, real estate manager for Arkansas-based Wal-Mart.
Doug Rose, the State Highway Administration's district engineer, agreed yesterday that a traffic light would make the store entrance safer. Highway officials had said earlier that only right turns should be allowed in and out of the shopping center, he said.
The light would be the third in a 2,000-foot section of Route 26 from Route 32 east to Georgetown Boulevard.
Some Eldersburg residents were not satisfied by the compromise. They said they wanted the commissioners to force Wal-Mart to build its store facing Route 32 (Londontown Boulevard) instead of Route 26.
"Turn the store around. Please do what's right for the people and the community," resident Trish Hughes said.
She and two other members of the newly formed group Alternatives for a Better Eldersburg gave the commissioners a petition with about 200 signatures supporting the change, one that Wal-Mart officials have said repeatedly they would not make.
In addition to signing the petition, Mrs. Hughes said, residents made comments such as, "Let them build it and we'll boycott it."
Resident Dan Hughes said, "Anything short of turning around the store is a lousy compromise."
Mr. Brown said it was too late to require Wal-Mart to change the position of the store.
Wal-Mart was ready to begin work at the site last week until the commissioners refused to issue a grading permit because of concerns about safety at the Route 26 entrance. There also will be an entrance on Route 32.
"The last thing Wal-Mart wants to do is create a bad name for itself," said Westminster attorney William B. Dulany, who represents the store.
The Carroll Planning Commission approved site plans in February allowing left turns at the store entrance on Route 26. Commissioner Richard T. Yates, a member of the Planning Commission, voted to approve the plans.
Yesterday, Mr. Yates said his vote would have been "entirely different" if he had realized there could be a safety problem at the entrance.
Wal-Mart plans to open a 103,500-square-foot store in January. Giant Food and Carroll County Bank & Trust Co. also will be in the shopping center.