Signs of discontent reappear on roads in southern county

Grocery store talk stirring activists in Deale-Shady Side

April 06, 1999|By Kirsten Scharnberg | Kirsten Scharnberg,SUN STAFF

Signs of discontent are appearing again in southern Anne Arundel County.

"Miles of Aisles," reads the grocery cart-shaped sign posted on a parcel of wooded land at Bay Front and Deale Churchton roads, where a Safeway could be built.

After months of talk that Safeway and Food Lion, two national grocery store chains, want to build in the Deale-Shady Side area, local activists are launching public displays of disapproval.

Residents in this area are known to be opposed to development and protective of the environment.

As Andrew C. Carpenter, spokesman for County Executive Janet S. Owens, predicted when the rumors of the potential grocery stores began circulating in January: "It's abundantly obvious that these stores aren't going to win any popularity contests down there."

One mom-and-pop Deale grocery store owner, Dick Christopher, put it this way: "We're fighting for our lives here."

No less than eight hand-painted signs have sprouted in less than a week along a 2-mile stretch of road.

"Small area planning before big building," reads one of the signs, referring to the county-appointed, citizen-led committees that are supposed to recommend how county officials deal with zoning and development issues over the next 20 years.

Members of South Arundel Citizens for Responsible Development say the signs indicate a battle to come over the grocery stores.

"I think this is kind of the beginning of an effort to get the public aware of what is going on," said SACReD spokeswoman Amanda Spake.

Roadside signs protesting big development are nothing new in south Arundel. Nor are the fights the hand-lettered signs can inspire.

In 1997 -- after the county declared the mostly rural Deale-Shady Side area to be a "primary growth" center where development should be concentrated -- residents protested loudly with brightly colored road signs.

"Meet the Monster That Could Eat South County," read one sign along winding Deale Churchton Road. "For Sale: Our

Future," said another. "Entering Primary Growth Area: Resume Greed," said yet another. And, "Danger: Growth Zone Ahead."

County officials fueled the ire of residents when zoning enforcement officers removed about 50 of the homemade signs, claiming that they were in violation of the county prohibition on political road signs.

County officials have long defended their practice of tearing down signs, noting that they re- move between 1,500 and 2,000 signs a week.

Residents have countered with the defense that the First Amendment protects their right to put the signs up.

The latest batch of South County protest signs have been up only a few days, and county officials said they have received at least one formal, written complaint about them.

"We are planning on going down there, investigating this and seeing if the signs fall within the code requirements," said county spokesman John Morris.

Pub Date: 4/06/99

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