Plans for Mount Airy Wal-Mart to be revealed tonight

October 26, 1998|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Mount Airy residents will get their first real look today at plans for a Wal-Mart store at a Route 27 shopping center.

The Mount Airy Planning and Zoning Commission will review site plans for the store today -- the beginning of a process that could bring an 85,000-square-foot Wal-Mart to the town of 5,000.

A citizens group opposed to the project complains it will be ill prepared to comment at the planning commission meeting because members have been denied access to information.

Town officials have refused residents' requests to see a detailed traffic study and the staff reports on the project.

"These documents are part of the public domain and are used to inform any and all interested parties so that informed discussion can be held," said Jack Caddy, who helped found Citizens for a Better Mount Airy.

"Mayor [Gerald R.] Johnson's refusal to release this information is extremely detrimental to the citizens of Mount Airy," he said.

Residents' comments will be accepted tonight.

A group of residents and business owners launched a petition drive and collected several hundred signatures of people opposed to Wal-Mart shortly after Johnson announced the retailer had made overtures to the town.

Opponents have voiced fears that the national retailer would alter the small-town atmosphere and destroy Main Street businesses. For nearly six months, they have organized fund-raising and public relations campaigns.

"There are so many things about this project that are against the interests of the community," said Caddy.

Town officials have also asked planning commissioner Keith Gehle to recuse himself from the decision because his property adjoins the shopping center.

"In this small town, everyone will be affected by this store," said Caddy. "The developer has made no complaints about this commissioner deciding on the issue. The mayor also lives in Merridale Gardens."

That development abuts the center.

Caddy hopes to fill town hall with Wal-Mart opponents, he said. Johnson was not available for comment Friday.

The Wal-Mart plan calls for building an access road to Main Street from the store, to be built on a 14-acre plat in the Mount Airy Shopping Center. Developer Gary Rappaport has also proposed an intersection with a signal at Ridgeville Boulevard and improving access to Route 27.

He claims that without a new anchor the 20-year-old shopping center will die.

Mount Airy would be Wal-Mart's third and smallest outlet in Carroll. The retailer has larger stores in Westminster and Eldersburg.

The Mount Airy Planning and Zoning Commission meets at 7: 30 p.m. at Town Hall, 110 S. Main St.

Pub Date: 10/26/98

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