Small business owners in south Anne Arundel County are banding together to form a nonprofit agency to serve as champion for the independent, mom-and-pop stores that are a staple in this still mostly rural area.
Despite a temporary moratorium on rezoning proposals that affects all but the most northern portions of the county, south Arundel business leaders say they have seen the writing on the wall when it comes to development.
"I've dedicated my life to this," said Weems W. Duvall Jr., a Churchton lawyer who has long battled proposals for development in the area. "We want to protect the small business owner as well as preserve our way of life here. That's what this is about."
The business owners decided to form the nonprofit group in the wake of reports that supermarket giants Safeway and Food Lion were looking to build grocery stores and strip malls in the Deale-Shady Side area. But it's not just about that.
"This was certainly spurred by the grocery store threat," Duvall said, "but this organization is going to deal with much more than that over the course of time."
Although formation of the organization -- tentatively called the Alliance for Rural Businesses -- is still in initial stages, almost a dozen business owners have indicated they will mail in their monthly dues to begin membership.
Ann Wolfe, a Shady Side small business owner who plans to join the alliance, said locals -- who are known for strong anti-development and pro-environment stances -- are again ready to "fight the pressure of large-scale strip malls."
Wolfe said a petition opposing the grocery stores has nearly 1,000 signatures.
"Small business owners looked around at what was happening in the area and said, `What can we do?' " said Wolfe, whose husband is also an independent business owner in the area. "The alliance was our answer."
The alliance has issued a five-point mission statement:
Encourage and strengthen small businesses;
Revitalize and enhance existing businesses;
Foster and reinforce a sense of community;
Preserve and promote natural environment and local quality of life; and
Support and participate in the small area planning committee process.
South Arundel has long been known for its civic energy when it comes to campaigning in the county for what residents want and battling what they don't want. It was in the same area, with many of the same people, that the group South Arundel Citizens for Responsible Development sprang to life.
SACReD, as the group has become known, has become one of the most powerful citizen-run groups in the county in about five years. Like the alliance, SACReD was born in response to a high-profile issue -- the preservation of Franklin Point. Though Franklin Point has been saved, SACReD still is campaigning for the environment and controlled growth.
Pub Date: 3/03/99