Bel Air Walmart

The Harford County Council's president says the council will be looking at possible changes in the B3 zoning classification in light of the public outcry over a Walmart proposed on a B3-zoned tract south of Bel Air. Any such changes, however, wouldn't affect the current Bel Air Walmart plan. Above, people line up to get into a community input meeting on the Bel Air Walmart held earlier this summer at Patterson Mill High School. (MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF, Homestead Publishing / July 19, 2012)

About 30 residents made their opposition to the proposed Walmart at Plumtree Road and Route 924 clear to members of the Harford County Council Tuesday at their meeting.

The Walmart issue was not on the agenda for Tuesday's council meeting, although the council is expected to review the zoning guidelines that allow such a project on the site at some point this fall.

At least one resident also expressed concern about the apartment building planned near the Walmart site and said he does not believe it could legitimately be built according to the county's own plans and designations for Route 924.

Residents said traffic is already bad on Route 924 and would be made worse by the Walmart.

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Bill Wheland, of Cedar Springs Road, got a loud round of applause, as well as praise from Council President Billy Boniface, for trying to show the apartments planned near Walmart should be scrapped because a recent traffic analysis done for them was incomplete, while the analysis for Walmart has not been done at all.

He said that while planning and zoning director Pete Gutwald claimed Route 924 is defined as an arterial road, Wheland said his research shows it is only an arterial road between Route 1 and the Bel Air Bypass, not at the Walmart site.

He said he believes the apartments will become Section 8 housing and some have even called it "the Walmart apartment complex."

The plan should be disapproved for reasons of unlawful violation, he said.

"I believe the county can find justifiable reasons if they do due diligence on all of these impacts," Wheland said. "I believe if the Walmart goes away, so do the apartments."

Boniface called the presentation "well-researched" and "well-done" but said he should speak with the council administrator because the council members, who also serve on the zoning board of appeals, are not allowed to comment on zoning issues.

Ted Janes, of Glenwood, said he has been a bus driver on Route 924 for five years and cannot imagine 10,000 more vehicles on the road daily, which is the number Walmart provides.

"How on earth can that be done safely?" he said, adding he has seen at least 12 accidents at the gas station across from Lorien and has seen numerous students cross the road to get to a convenience store.

"It's a real safety issue that I think people have to be aware of," he said.

Gary Ambridge, of Patterson Mill Road, said he liked the thoroughfare as a dirt road and knows there is something the council can do to stop the Walmart.

"This is what we elected people to do," he said angrily, to audience applause. "Stop it. We don't want it."

Michael Taylor, who lives a mile from the proposed site, said half-jokingly: "How do you keep a community together? You propose a Walmart. How do you destroy a community? You build it."

Nancy Grief said she has traveled around the region and seen many Walmart stores on main roads, not ones like Route 924.

"This store belongs on one of the main thoroughfares," she said, adding she had nothing against Walmart but just does not want it in her area.

"I love Walmart but I don't want it here where we can't get in and out of our neighborhood," she said.

Also at the meeting: