Owens, Miller settle differences over Safeway

He alters zoning bill, and she supports it

April 08, 2001|By Scott Calvert | Scott Calvert,SUN STAFF

She accused him of meddling in a local zoning issue. He said she wasn't doing right by residents. Neither hid frustration with the other.

But Friday, Anne Arundel County's top elected official and the state Senate president called a truce in their dispute over a proposed supermarket.

County Executive Janet S. Owens gave grudging support to Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller's legislation, which is aimed at blocking a 55,000-square-foot Safeway store in Deale, a tiny southern Anne Arundel community.

In return, Miller agreed to change the bill so that it would not unintentionally thwart other commercial projects in the county, namely the redevelopment of a former Navy facility near Annapolis.

The accord is expected to clear the way for the bill, which has been passed by the Senate and won the blessing of the county's House delegation Friday. A slightly different version of the bill also passed the House on Friday and will return to the Senate.

The agreement ends the squabbling between Owens and Miller, two Democrats who have never been political allies. "I would hope this brings some resolution," Owens said.

The move pleased Safeway opponents, who say the proposed supermarket and adjacent shops could harm a nearby creek, Deale's small-town atmosphere and existing stores.

Safeway denounced the deal. "The county has abandoned Safeway," said Bruce C. Bereano, the chain's lobbyist, noting that county planners issued a grading permit in the fall.

Richard Parsons, a lobbyist for the Greater Washington Board of Trade, said the company is right to complain. "You're telling businesses there is no certainty in the zoning process anymore," he said.

California-based Safeway is not willing to walk away from the property it has owned for a decade. "We're not at that stage yet," company spokesman Craig Muckle said.

Miller's modified bill would prohibit buildings in commercial zones from using storm-water ponds on residentially zoned land to manage runoff. Safeway - at the county's behest - had crafted a plan to put ponds on residential land, in part to ease runoff affecting 11 nearby homes.

The bill would apply only in Anne Arundel and Calvert counties, and only within a half-mile of the Chesapeake Bay or tidal tributaries. It would expire in a year unless lawmakers renewed it.

"This bill is about the people; this bill is about the environment," said Miller, whose Senate district includes Deale. He said he never meant to inject himself into Owens' "business."

His involvement rankles Owens, who called the bill "something we can live with."

Like Miller, Owens has said the proposed Safeway is too big for Deale. But she had said she had no power to stop it.

In response to Miller's bill, she urged the County Council to rezone Safeway's land to limit buildings to 25,000 square feet.

Safeway strongly opposes that idea, too. "No supermarket builds a 25,000-square-foot store," said Greg TenEyck, another company spokesman.

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