Opponents of the proposed Westminster bypass are considering a boycott of area businesses that oppose an alternate plan to upgrade the existing highway.
Carroll Life, a citizens group that says it has about 100 members, has been fighting a proposal to build a Route 140 bypass north of Westminster, where many of them live. The group circulated fliers last week suggesting the boycott.
The flier "was in direct response to the letter the Greater Westminster Development Corp. and the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce sent out to local businesses," said Carroll Life member Paula J. Davidson.
The flier urged citizens to write the State Highway Administration in support of alternate proposal 3C, favored by Carroll Life, which would upgrade Route 140. It includes a plan to limit direct access and build overpasses and underpasses at four intersections.
Helen C. Utz, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, said the letter urged owners of affected businesses to oppose SHA alternates to the bypass that would expand Route 140 to three lanes in each direction through much of Westminster and add ramps, underpasses and overpasses at several intersections.
The alternates could mean up to 16 businesses would lose their existing locations and up to 25 would lose parking spaces.
"We also need to let the business community know that we, their customers, will speak out with our pocketbooks against all businesses that support putting a bypass in our neighborhoods," the Carroll Life flier said. "Perhaps a boycott of any business that supports a bypass will make them listen."
Mrs. Davidson said her group's plan would cut off no intersections and would provide better access for businesses than would two similar SHA plans, known as alternates 3A and 3B.
Those plans provide for less extensive upgrades of the existing road.
Many community leaders support one of several northern bypass options. The state also has proposed southern bypass routes.
Ms. Utz said the chamber and the development corporation did not encourage business owners to support the bypass, but rather to "open discussions on the bypass."
Thomas C. Ferguson, president of Carroll County Bank and Trust Co., wrote the SHA to oppose the alternates. Changes at Englar Road would affect the bank's operations center and branch on the southeast side of the intersection, "one of the heaviest utilized branches we have," he said.
"It seems to me that all the parties who have an interest should be able to express their opinions openly and fairly and candidly without fear of retaliation," Mr. Ferguson said of the boycott proposal. "That's what free speech is all about."
Mrs. Davidson said the boycott would happen only if the business members on the task force hampered efforts to develop "creative efforts toward a solution satisfactory to everyone" who might be affected by the road plans.
Stanley H. "Jack" Tevis III, owner of a Westminster oil dealership, can evaluate the alternatives from the perspective of a man who might lose his gasoline station at Routes 140 and 97 to one of the alternates or to the bypass.
Facing possible loss either way, "I can speak with an unjaundiced view," he said. Mr. Tevis sees the northern bypass as a better option than any of the three alternate plans to improve Route 140.
The bypass would affect fewer people and would not try to remake city streets into "de facto interchanges on this JFX [Jones Falls Expressway] going through our town," he said.
Mr. Tevis said he empathized with the citizens' feelings about potential loss of their homes to the bypass.
"I'm not going to criticize their tactics or their stance, because they're doing the right thing for them," he said.