Store project draws fire

Business owners voice their concerns about proposed Wal-Mart

May 28, 1999|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

About 50 people, many of them small-business owners, packed a meeting room at the County Office Building yesterday to oppose construction of a Wal-Mart at a Route 30 shopping plaza between Hampstead and Manchester.

The Arkansas retail giant unveiled its plans for a 101,194-square-foot store and attached 3,100-square-foot fast-food restaurant during a public meeting of the county's Subdivision Advisory Committee, ending months of speculation over the use of the property. The site was rezoned in November to make way for a "big box" retail development.

"I'm not objecting to a Wal-Mart coming in. I'm objecting to the timing," Sue Klingenberg, owner of Bob's Variety on Main Street (Route 30) in Hampstead, told members of the advisory committee.

"If this project eliminates any parking, it will signal the end of Main Street," said Klingenberg, who has run the town variety store with her husband for 40 years. "A business can't operate without customers, and customers won't patronize our stores if they can't park. In addition, we have a mammoth problem with traffic already. Why are we going to compound it?"

About a dozen people commented on the retail giant's plans. Only one man spoke in favor of the proposed Wal-Mart at North Carroll Shopping Plaza. Many echoed Klingenberg's fears about traffic congestion.

"We also have concerns about long-term impacts," said Chris Cavey, president of the Hampstead Business Association. "Stores like Bob's Variety may go out of business, stores that support the Little League and other local groups."

Members of the Hampstead business group voted last summer to oppose the Wal-Mart because of its potential negative impact on the small town's businesses. Plans submitted by the developer show more than 1,000 parking spaces in the shopping center and a new traffic signal at Route 30 and Eagle Ridge Court.

"We don't need a Wal-Mart," Cavey said. "You can drive 20 minutes in any direction and find a big-box retailer." Wal-Marts are located within a 20-minute drive of Hampstead in Westminster and Hanover, Pa.

Town Councilman Haven Shoemaker also protested the plans, voicing concerns about the store's impact on Main Street revitalization efforts and plans for a Manchester bypass.

The Wal-Mart would be built at Route 30 and Brodbeck Road, a site identified in the county's Master Plan to hold part of the Manchester bypass. State funding for the road was killed by Maryland transportation officials in January under the Smart Growth program -- the governor's initiative to prevent suburban sprawl.

Despite the lack of state support, many residents hold hope that county officials will pay for a bypass around Manchester and need the Hampstead property to build it.

Similar stories

The Hampstead battle with the national retailer is the latest in a string of such fights. Activists in several rural Maryland communities have pitted themselves against the $70 billion retail giant in hopes of blocking the discount chain from opening in their towns.

In Mount Airy, residents organized opposition last year, but lost the battle when the town planning commission approved Wal-Mart'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.

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

The Subdivision Advisory Committee is composed of representatives from several state and county agencies, including the State Highway Administration and Carroll's Bureau of Zoning. The panel reviews the technical aspects of proposed projects and then makes recommendations to the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission.

Change in plans required

The committee yesterday told engineers on the Wal-Mart project that they would have to modify their plans before presenting them to the planning commission.

The required changes include improvements to lighting in the parking lot and the widening of Brodbeck Road. State highway officials also ordered upgrades at the intersection of Routes 27 and 30, and the creation of a left-turn lane from Gill Street onto Route 30.

Martin W. Hackett, vice president of Carroll Land Services Inc. -- a Westminster engineering company -- said he hopes to present plans to the commission within the next 60 days.

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.

Pub Date: 5/28/99

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