Wal-Mart to unveil plans for location on Route 30

Meeting to discuss proposal expected to draw protest

May 27, 1999|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,SUN STAFF

Maryland's latest fight between community activists and retail giant Wal-Mart is about to enter round one -- this time outside Hampstead.

About 40 people are expected to attend a county Subdivision Advisory Committee meeting this morning to protest construction of the proposed discount giant store in North Carroll Shopping Plaza on Route 30 between Hampstead and Manchester.

Formal plans for the 101,194-square-foot Wal-Mart will be unveiled during the public meeting, ending months of speculation over the use of the property, which was rezoned in November in anticipation of a "big box" retail development.

"We've received a lot of calls in anticipation of the meeting," said Stephen Ford, development review supervisor for Carroll Bureau of Development Review. "It is controversial."

Other details of the project are expected to be discussed at the meeting. The Subdivision Advisory Committee is one of the initial steps in the county's development review process. The panel will make a recommendation to Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission.

It is the latest in a string of battles waged by residents of rural Maryland communities in hopes of blocking the $70 billion Arkansas retail giant from opening in their towns, forcing small, independent businesses to close.

In Mount Airy, residents organized opposition to the national retailer last year because four Wal-Marts are located within a 20-minute drive of the town. The effort failed when the town planning commission approved the national chain's proposal in November.

On the Eastern Shore, historic Chestertown in Kent County holds the distinction of waging the nation's longest-running Wal-Mart war -- a six-year conflict between preservationists and economic development officials in Maryland's least-populated county. The proposed 100,000-square-foot store would rival each of Chestertown's two strip shopping centers -- 173,000-square-foot Kent Plaza and 130,000-square-foot Washington Square.

In Hampstead, the Wal-Mart would be built at Route 30 and Brodbeck Road, a site identified in the Carroll County Master Plan to hold part of the Manchester bypass, recently scrapped by state officials under the Smart Growth program -- the governor's initiative to curb suburban sprawl.

Ford said most of the protest centers on building the store at that location -- because many residents hold hope that county officials will fund a bypass around Manchester and need the Hampstead property to build it.

Chris Cavey, president of the Hampstead Business Association, said members voted last summer to oppose the North Carroll Shopping Plaza Wal-Mart construction because of its potential negative impact on the small town's businesses.

"We have auto supply, small shops and a pharmacy that is family-owned," Cavey said. "It's very tough on the small businesses. It's also going to cause an increase in traffic on Route 30.

"I know there's a lot of residents in Hampstead who are happy for it -- our society in general is into convenience," Cavey added. "But I don't think the county planners are taking a good hard look at the total picture. How can they be working on the revitalization of Main Street in Hampstead and working on a bypass to Manchester and still allow this to come? It's counterproductive."

Plans for the chain department store were filed in the county development review office early this month, Ford said.

The store would be developed by H. M. Mall Associates of Baltimore, a subsidiary of Cordish Co. Company officials were not available for comment yesterday.

The Subdivision Advisory Committee will consider the Wal-Mart proposal at 9: 30 a.m. in Conference Room 003/004 in Carroll County Office Building, 225 N. Center St., Westminster.

Pub Date: 5/27/99

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