Paper or plastic -- or neither?

Anne Arundel: South County opposition to three grocery chains is the latest sign of development angst.

February 09, 1999

THE FERVOR against development has become so surreal that some people in northern Anne Arundel County embrace the dumping of dredge spoil on a nearby "brownfields" site just so long as a professional auto racetrack doesn't get built there. Meanwhile, groups in southern Anne Arundel are fighting plans by three supermarket chains on the premise that they'd rather drive 20 miles for a sack of groceries than see new businessg that might foster more growth. Vocal residents in Shady Side and Deale are treating proposals by Safeway, Food Lion and Shoppers Food Warehouse as if they were designs for toxic waste dumps.

The grocery chains are eyeing South County because it is one of the few under-served markets in Anne Arundel. Residents should not rebuff this interest, particularly since the area has seen little commercial investment. Rather, they should capitalize on this willingness to invest in South County in a way that produces the greatest benefit for the community.

Residents mistakenly believe that the county's existing zoning laws and "Small Area Plans" were enacted so they could veto particular types of development. Land-use laws and planning efforts are designed to manage development with rules and restrictions, not outlaw it altogether. The community should convince the chains, or one of them, to develop a supermarket that fulfills its goals.

If revitalizing old commercial areas is a priority, for example, the community might support a plan to build in the middle of these areas, or in a way that is likely to spur revitalization. The community also might discourage the standard supermarket site plan, awash in a sea of parking spaces.

Opposing new investment won't enhance the quality of life in South County. Rather, the more productive strategy is to ensure that developers adhere to strong standards of community preservation and environmental protection.

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