Plan to build supermarket raises concerns

Towson residents fear traffic would worsen

February 22, 2000|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

Plans to build a Giant Food store on one of Towson's busiest streets are raising concerns from residents about potential traffic tie-ups, while business leaders say the project would be easily accessible to many nearby communities.

Vanguard Equities Inc. of Towson has the necessary zoning to build a 77,000-square-foot shopping center adjacent to Kenilworth shops at Kenilworth Drive and West Road. Leonard Weinberg, president of Vanguard Equities, said yesterday he does not know when construction would begin.

Weinberg said his company hopes to lease space to businesses that would complement the mall.

Traffic "is a concern that we're trying to address," he said, noting that his company is working with the community and the county's planning department.

The Giant will be built on the site of at least part of Brooks Buick, BMW and will also replace That's Amore restaurant. The restaurant is on land owned by the car dealership.

Gerald Rescigno, vice president of Towson Development Cooperation -- a group of Towson business leaders -- said his organization's board of directors voted to support the project at a meeting last week.

He said the board was impressed that Giant Food wants to make the commitment to the area, explaining that the location "is pretty accessible to any residential neighborhood in Towson."

Because the land is zoned for commercial use, neighbors said they realize they can do nothing to stop the project, but want to ensure traffic is controlled and that the shopping center's design and landscaping blend with the residential community.

County Councilman Wayne M. Skinner, a Towson Republican, said some are worried the congested road will get worse with the new development, which would include several retail shops.

"The main issue is traffic," said Skinner, noting that the developers estimate 15,000 cars a day travel Kenilworth Drive.

He also said traffic at the nearby intersection of Kenilworth and North Charles Street is rated by the county as a level "D."

"It doesn't fail, but it's close to it," said Skinner.

Skinner said he hopes the county will be able to manage increased traffic by installing a traffic light at the entrance to the Kenilworth mall. The Giant, he added, also could "allow the mall to be more viable than it is today," by drawing more shoppers.

Skeptical neighbors, though, worry that a new traffic light will do little to slow speeders.

Bill McCarthy, who lives on Kenilworth near the mall, said residents of Riderwood Hills community want new four-way stop signs at intersections to slow traffic.

Another neighbor, Corinne Becker, who has lived on the street for 40 years, said increased truck traffic over the decades has caused foundations and ceilings to crack. She said the community wants the county to lower the speed limit to 25 mph and to route traffic from the Giant onto West Road, away from homes.

"More people buy groceries than BMW's and Buicks. So this will create an even larger traffic problem," she said.

Yesterday, David Widows, vice president and dealer-operator of Brooks, said that although Giant will replace the restaurant, the auto business might remain.

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