Public hearings are needed before mall plan is approved [Letter]

June 18, 2014

Elected officials in Baltimore County need to think carefully about plans for a new outlet mall at Nottingham Ridge in White Marsh ("Developers of White Marsh outlet mall face opposition campaign from rivals," June 14).

I have so many concerns about this project that it is hard to know where to begin.

As a business owner and resident of the area, I fear that adding this new competition without doing an in-depth analysis of the retail market may cause stores to close and blight to come to the existing shopping centers.

What infrastructure requirements are being put on the proposed new outlet mall? Traffic in the area is already congested, and I fear a major new mall will only worsen the problem. A project of this size needs a thorough analysis and public discussion of such issues before it is considered for approval.

What about crime? You can bet that with an increase in retail shops, especially outlet stores, a wave of crime will follow. How will our already stretched-to-the-limit police and fire departments manage that?

Earlier this year, the developer proposed to make it virtually an entire retail project — and no one on the County Council stood up to demand public hearings and a transparent process for such a major change. Why not? Why aren't our elected officials looking out for the community?

The Middle River estuary flows directly into the Chesapeake Bay. Adding a new mall means more storm water runoff into the river due to the increased number of impervious surfaces such as parking lots. A large outlet also means more traffic and automobile pollution from shoppers and supply trucks, along with more salt on the roads in the winter — another major contributor to the deterioration of the river and the Chesapeake Bay. The water quality of the bay needs to be carefully monitored, and Baltimore County needs to do more intensive environmental studies of the potential impact from an outlet mall so close to a critical waterway.

I find it particularly troubling that development plans for the new mall are being slipped through Baltimore County government with little or no public input or community hearings.

I urge county council members to slow things down and start a substantive process of community engagement and analysis. County residents and businesses alike are owed at least that much.

Don Perkins, Nottingham

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