Plan for giant retail store on target Chain wins approval though some Owings Mills neighbors oppose site

September 19, 1995|By Patrick Gilbert | Patrick Gilbert,SUN STAFF

The development plan for a giant discount retail store in Owings Mills was approved yesterday by a Baltimore County hearing officer, overriding community opposition that nearly a year ago defeated a Wal-Mart proposal to build on the same site.

Hearing Officer Lawrence E. Schmidt, in a written opinion, said the community's complaint that a 100,000-square foot Target discount store would be out of character there was groundless.

The site is an 11.5-acre wooded property on the southwest corner of Reisterstown Road and what is planned to be the extension of Dolfield Boulevard, rezoned for major business in 1988. Adjoining the property is the Pleasant Hills development of about 300 townhouses built since 1989.

"Residential communities built adjacent to major arterial roads, in designated growth areas, immediately abutting land zoned for business are hard pressed to claim that such development is improper," Mr. Schmidt wrote.

The hearing officer pointed out that in relation to the location of the building and landscaping and road improvements, the developer showed sensitivity to the store's proximity to surrounding houses.

But Mr. Schmidt put a condition on his approval, requiring a traffic light at the intersection of Dolfield and Reisterstown and improvements to Dolfield. He also limited access to the site from Reisterstown Road and the hours for truck traffic to and from the loading dock to between 8 a.m. to 12 noon.

"Those conditions were ones pushed by the community so to that extent, we did win a small victory," said J. Carroll Holzer, an attorney who represented community residents.

Mr. Schmidt noted that since the proposed project plan met all county requirements, he had no option but to approve it. He rejected claims by opponents that the hearing officer has discretion to deny development plan approval even if requirements are met.

Michael R. McCann, an attorney and community leader, said he disagreed with Mr. Schmidt on that issue and considered it grounds to appeal the decision.

Wal-Mart had proposed building a 147,000-square-foot store at the site. The larger store would have been closer to the townhouses and generated a larger volume of traffic, Mr. Holzer said.

But the Wal-Mart never got as far as a plan hearing. The company dropped out last October, citing unresolved traffic problems and community opposition.

"Target at least was nicer in its approach to us and did make some concessions to the community that Wal-Mart refused," said Mr. McCann. "But still, a 100,000-square-foot store is still a large building when compared to our houses."

Minneapolis-based Target Stores, the nation's third-largest discount chain, has mounted a push lately into the Baltimore area to take on rivals like Wal-Mart, Price Club, and K-Mart.

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