Mall plan gains nod Council approves zoning change, clears way for Arundel Mills

Critics fear traffic, pollution

Construction may begin in fall 1999 on complex near BWI

August 18, 1998|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

The Anne Arundel County Council approved last night a change in zoning law to allow construction of a 1.4 million square-foot shopping and entertainment complex west of Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Construction on the Arundel Mills mall is expected to begin in fall 1999 on 380 acres south of Route 100 and west of Ridge Road, said John Ballard, a spokesman for the Mills Corp. of Arlington, Va.

The $200 million mall will be the largest ever built in the county, with perhaps 200 stores, a 30-screen movie theater and a Rainforest Cafe, in which customers will dine amid tropical foliage.

The council voted 7-0 last night to allow the project on commercially zoned land without holding an additional public hearing.

"This complex is expected to bring a tremendous benefit to the county -- $5.2 million a year in taxes as well as 3,500 permanent jobs," said Ballard.

Critics have argued that the county has a glut of malls and that the traffic and pollution from motor vehicles will choke nearby residents.

"We already have over 30 movie screens in a five-mile area," Lewis Bracy, 45, of Hanover, told the council last night. "I don't think we need to lose God's trees and streams to build another movie theater."

Acres of trees threatened

Gary Mauler, 48, an engineer who lives in Severn, said before the meeting: "It's a great thing if you live somewhere else in the county. But it will do harm to the local residents, cutting down perhaps 1,000 acres of trees for the mall and its spillover development."

The council this month voted unanimously to approve a special taxation district that will help pay for road improvements for the mall, including a ramp to the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

Builder adjusted plan

County Councilwoman Diane R. Evans, a Democrat from Arnold, said the Mills Corp. deserves praise for holding several meetings with residents and adjusting the project to meet their needs.

"I think the company has certainly bent over backward to really work with the community and the elected officials," Evans said.

Mills Corp. has built seven similar malls around the country. The Ontario Mills mall, 40 miles east of Los Angeles, draws more visitors every year than Disneyland.

The company's first project, Potomac Mills in Potomac, Va., is one of the largest tourist attractions in that state.

Pub Date: 8/18/98

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