The current site of the Anderson Automotive Group is projected… (Amy Davis, Baltimore Sun )
A Baltimore City Council member has delayed introduction of legislation that would permit construction of a $65 million Walmart-anchored development in her district so local residents and merchants can get more information about the project.
The retail and residential project, called 25th Street Station, is planned for an 11.5-acre parcel centered around 25th and Howard streets in Remington. Councilwoman Belinda K. Conaway said she will postpone introduction of legislation by one week until the April 19 council meeting.
An online petition drive called "No Walmart in Remington" has gathered more than 950 signatures, but many of the signers come from outside Maryland, including California, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Conaway said she is aware that some community members have concerns about the project but that she supports it as a way to bring needed jobs and places for residents to shop. She said 25th Street Station has received a lot of scrutiny and will get even more once the legislation is introduced and public hearings begin.
"This is not something that has just dropped out of the sky," she said. "It's not a done deal. It's not etched in stone. It's a work in progress."
Conaway said she agreed to push back the council legislation at the request of the development team, a group headed by Rick Walker and called WV Urban Developments LLC. Conaway also received requests for a delay from representatives of two community groups, the Hampden Village Merchants Association and the Medfield Community Association.
The site is occupied by Anderson Automotive, a car dealership that is consolidating its operations in Baltimore County. The legislation would permit the car dealership to be replaced with the development of about 320,000 square feet of retail space, including Baltimore's first Lowe's Home Center and second Walmart, as well as 80 to 90 residences and 1,050 parking spaces. The project is expected to open by late 2011 and create several hundred jobs.
Jon Laria, an attorney representing the developers, said his team had promised leaders of community organizations that they would receive a draft of the legislation before it was introduced, and requested a one-week delay because the development team needs more time to complete the draft and get it to the community groups.
Laria said his team has been meeting since December with representatives of three communities adjacent to the Anderson parcel - Remington, Charles Village and the Old Goucher Historic District. He said a week's delay would not affect the proposed construction timetable for the project, which calls for work to begin this year.
Benn Ray, the owner of Atomic Books on Falls Road and president of the Hampden Village Merchants Association, said members of his group have not seen a presentation on the project and wanted to do so before any legislation was introduced. He said his group represents about 130 businesses. He said his members have concerns about the 25th Street project's impact on traffic and city resources, what types of tenants will be included, the possible duplication of businesses and inventory, and other issues.
"A development the size and scope of the one currently proposed will have an impact on a several mile radius, not just the immediate vicinity," Ray wrote to Conaway. "We feel that it's in everyone's best interest if all of those who may be affected by it have a chance to hear from the developers themselves what the plan is."
Richard Kaminski, chairman of the Medfield group's zoning and land use committee, wrote to Conaway that his chief concern was the project's effect on traffic. The development "has a far reaching socio-economic and lifestyle impact outside the 9-10 block radius" of the site, he wrote.
Ray said a presentation by the developers has been scheduled for Monday evening to the Hampden Community Council, and many members of his group plan to attend. He said he appreciates that Conaway decided to delay introducing any legislation, but couldn't say whether one week would be enough time for members of his group to digest information.
Laria said community groups from across the city will still have many chances to get information about the project and voice their opinions, including hearings of the Planning Commission and the City Council's land use committee, once the legislation is introduced.
Conaway said she doesn't want Anderson to move out with nothing approved to take its place. "I do not want a vacant building sitting there," she said.