Rite Aid gets OK to ready site for store Preliminary approval to cut down woods, fill wetlands given

Neighbors plan boycott

But state official says environmental 'impacts are minimal'

November 08, 1996|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

A state agency has given a drug store chain preliminary approval to cut down woods and fill wetlands at Ritchie Highway and Jones Station Road to make room for a 10,000-square-foot outlet.

But neighbors of the proposed Rite Aid site say that just because the so-called superstore will be there doesn't mean they will use it.

"Our plan and our fervent hope is to boycott that store," said Walter Skretch, who lives on Dividing Creek Road. "We don't need it, and we're going to prove that we don't need it."

The Maryland Department of the Environment will not issue a permit until Rite Aid submits final site plans to the county Department of Planning and Code Enforcement and the State Highway Administration.

Neighbors are upset that MDE would allow Rite Aid to clear 16,000-square-feet of trees and fill in about 1,100-square-feet of wetlands between the old Damon's restaurant building and the Arnold fire station. The plan also would entail razing the vacant restaurant to make room for the store and 49 parking spaces.

"I don't think it's necessary," said Rick Zablocki, president of Greater Severna Park Council. "They did not show that there was enough need to warrant the destruction of wetlands."

Terrance W. Clark, MDE's chief of nontidal wetlands and waterways, disagreed with the opponents.

He said he approved the proposal because an analysis by the state Department of Business and Economic Development showed that the site was viable and that the store was needed.

He also said the plan satisfied environmental requirements with two measures to prevent silt from flowing into nearby Dividing Creek.

Storm-water retention ponds could hold nearly 6 inches of rain an hour, while a large silt fence would slow the amount of sediment into the creek.

"The impacts are minimal and they comply with water quality standards," Clark said. "There's no justification not to do otherwise [than give approval]."

But those man-made devices cannot do what the trees have been doing for years, said Peter Cooper, who chairs the environment committee of Greater Severna Park Council. "We're still going to see a tremendous amount of runoff into the stream," he said. "And that's silt that would not have been there if the trees were there."

A lawyer for Rite Aid did not return calls.

Rite Aid opponents have found an ally in one of the county's most powerful politicians.

County Council Chairwoman Diane R. Evans, who lives in Arnold, said she is opposed to the plan because the building would invade a 25-foot buffer surrounding the nontidal wetlands.

"I believe our first priority should be honoring our environmental goals not bending the law to suit a competing objective when other more suitable locations are readily available within the area," she said.

Residents noted that there are Rite Aid stores in Arnold, Millersville and Severna Park. "Tearing down trees for a store when they have vacant stores elsewhere is silly," Skretch said. "I think this confirms that money talks and common sense walks."

Pub Date: 11/08/96

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