Deale residents declare victory

Safeway bid is denied after 2-year battle over Arundel growth

January 22, 2000|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

Residents of southern Anne Arundel County, fighting to preserve Deale's small-town character, won their first major victory yesterday in the two-year battle over a proposed supermarket and strip mall.

Pointing to "the possibility of serious environmental consequences," county officials denied Safeway Inc. a waiver to build a shopping center on a flood plain at Routes 256 and 258.

If the ruling survives a possible appeal from Safeway, it could signal a shift in the growth that has left residents feeling overpowered by large developers.

"It is a victory for all the people of the community," said Mohan Grover, owner of Renno's Food Market near Deale. "We have fought a long, hard battle, and it was not an easy job. People move out here because quality of life is better. This [decision] helps us to have peace and tranquillity."

The 3,000 residents of the Deale area -- more than a quarter of whom turned out for a hearing on the project last month -- united in their fight against Safeway and two other grocery chains.

A year ago, residents of the town and surrounding areas posted signs along roadways.

One read: "Meet the Monster That Could Eat South County."

Another: "Entering Primary Growth Area: Resume Greed."

And: "For Sale: Our Future."

Some local businesses also fought the proposed development, fearing competition would bring an end to local pharmacies, food and flower stores, many of which have been there for decades.

Yesterday, Amanda Spake, president of South Arundel Citizens for Responsible Development, said the effort paid off.

"The bottom-line issue has always been this flood plain waiver," Spake said.

The county Department of Planning and Code Enforcement said that "the cumulative effect of the clearing, grading, construction present the possibility of serious environmental consequences."

In a letter to Safeway engineers, the department's interim director, Richard T. Wilcox, wrote: "The scope of this proposed development far exceeds the intent of [county law] and the proposed mitigation does not justify the potential environmental impact."

Safeway has 30 days to appeal the decision to the county Board of Appeals. A spokesman from the company's eastern division headquarters in Lanham said the company will study its position during the next few weeks before deciding whether to proceed.

Safeway submitted its plan to the county in 1991 to build on 9 acres at the intersection, which is zoned for commercial use. That plan was rejected because of storm water management concerns.

Safeway returned with a new plan to build four buildings on 13 acres with enough room to handle water runoff. That plan was contingent on a waiver from county regulations that limit building in a flood plain.

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