Remington Walmart project vote postponed

Company, council panel disagree over reason for delay

September 29, 2010|By Julie Scharper, The Baltimore Sun

Members of Baltimore's City Council postponed a key vote Wednesday on the 25th Street Station development in Remington, but the reason for the delay is in dispute.

Members of the council's land use committee said the vote was delayed at the request of Walmart, which they said was considering changes to wages for workers at the store the company hopes to build in the proposed shopping center.

A spokesman for the retail giant said Walmart did not request the delay.

Councilwoman Belinda Conaway, whose district includes the project site, said she has been in negotiations with Walmart officials over worker benefits for more than a month.

"We don't want to create a project that makes people the working poor," Conaway said. She declined to provide specifics of the deal, saying it was far from final.

"We're trying to get a deliverable for the community," she said. "Something that makes a difference. Something that will matter."

Conaway had supported a bill proposed by Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke a few months ago that would have required major retailers to pay workers the city's living wage. That bill died in committee, but Clarke has been working to resurrect it.

Matthew Weinstein, Baltimore director of Progressive Maryland, called the vote postponement a victory. He said it indicated that Walmart officials were considering paying employees more than the minimum wage.

Progressive Maryland has joined with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and other groups to form the Baltimore CAN coalition and demand the state living wage for Walmart workers.

The council's land use committee heard more than seven hours of testimony about the site from developers, city officials and community groups. The committee had appeared poised to approve land use plans for the project Wednesday.

Wages are not part of the land use plans the committee has been considering, but they have been central to the debate over the proposal.

The vote has not been rescheduled. City Council Vice President Edward L. Reisinger, who chairs the land use committee, said it would likely be held within three weeks.

Jon Laria, an attorney representing the site's developers, called the delay "frustrating but manageable" and said he hoped it would soon be passed by the full council.

julie.scharper@baltsun.com

twitter.com/juliemore

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