Bigger than Annapolis? Anne Arundel: Arundel Mills is one step closer to possibly becoming county's largest attraction.

September 22, 1998

ANNAPOLIS, home of the state capital and U.S. Naval Academy, may someday be surpassed as the main tourist attraction in Anne Arundel County. A 1.4-million-square-foot discount mall and entertainment center in Hanover is one step closer to becoming the county's major destination.

The County Council last month passed legislation to form a special taxing district and granted "regional commercial complex" zoning for the proposed Arundel Mills. The developer, Outlet Malls, expects the center, off Route 100 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, to attract tens of thousands of shoppers. It could become a destination in and of itself, like Outlet Malls' Potomac Mills, which outdraws other Virginia attractions such as Colonial Williamsburg and Mount Vernon.

The special taxing district will issue $28 million of bonds to be used primarily to finance road widening and interchange upgrades, water and sewer improvements. Interest on the bonds will be paid by the increased property taxes collected from the mall.

With the new zoning classification, the proposed mall will not have to go through the special exception review. Developers don't like this process because determined opponents can use it to delay the project to death.

There won't be public participation and cross-examination of the mall's plans. But the county's Planning and Code Enforcement Department will have the ability to ensure that the project conforms to traffic, noise and environmental conditions set by the council.

Perhaps it is time to explore whether the special exception provision in the zoning code should be retained. Two major developments -- an auto race track and, now, this mall -- won County Council approval to bypass the process. If large projects are regularly excused from "special exemption" hearings, that classification becomes useless.

Pub Date: 9/22/98

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