Grocery store's fate is unclear

County hearing examiner dismisses appeal made on Wegmans proposal

`We just have to ... wait to see'


April 02, 2004|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

A New York developer's effort to bring a Wegmans grocery store to an industrial site in east Columbia suffered a setback this week after the Howard County hearing examiner dismissed the developer's appeal.

The delay will slow, but not kill, Staten Island developer Timothy C. Harrison's attempt to attract the mega-grocery store to the location.

Harrison had appealed a letter from the county Department of Planning and Zoning, which stated that zoning for the 10-acre site - across McGaw Road from Apple Ford - does not allow for a grocery store.

Hearing examiner Thomas P. Carbo dismissed the case Monday, ruling that the county's letter was not an "appealable event" because the letter did not make a decision regarding a permit or license application. Harrison had not submitted plans for a grocery store on that site.

County planner Bob Lalush said Harrison could appeal Carbo's decision, submit a site development plan or request a declaratory ruling - which can be appealed - from the county.

"I guess we just have to sit back and wait to see whether the appellant does anything more," Lalush said.

Harrison had not seen the decision and did not want to comment yesterday. His local zoning attorney, Richard B. Talkin, would not comment.

Howard County planners and the Rouse Co. oppose the idea of a 100,000-square-foot Wegmans because they fear the store - which is known for its in-store dining and a huge variety of cheeses, produce and prepared meals - would hurt Columbia's village concept.

Eight of Columbia's nine village centers have grocery stores - either a Giant Food or a Safeway - and have faced tough competition in recent years from newer shopping centers with big-box stores.

The site that Harrison sought to develop is across Snowden River Parkway from a Rouse-owned big-box development that contains a BJ's Wholesale Club, which sells groceries in bulk.

Based in Rochester, N.Y., Wegmans is planning to open its first Maryland store next year as the anchor tenant at Hunt Valley Towne Center. The store will have about 500 employees.

Wegmans has 66 stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Virginia, where it opened a store in February, in Sterling. That store is 130,000 square feet and has a restaurant with seating for 260. Another store is planned for Fairfax, Va.

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