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Letter: Impact of Walmart will be far-reaching

Editor:

I live in the Evergreen Heights community which is within walking distance, about 1/2 mile, of the proposed Wal-Mart shopping center project at Plumtree Road and Route 924.

I am very concerned about the negative impact of this project not only to the Bel Air South residential communities that are immediately adjacent to and surround it, but also the negative effects that will reach as far as the Town of Bel Air, Tollgate Road and the Wheel Road/Route 543 corridor. This seems to have been overlooked when the zoning change was made that allows a project of this magnitude to be considered in an area of established, traditional family oriented communities of all social-economic levels. Among my concerns are increased crime, allowing transients to use the parking lot as squatters, reduced property values, light pollution, and generally reduced quality of life. There is also its close proximity to two schools, a health care facility and day care center. And there are already more than adequate great shopping venues that already exist in the area.

But my biggest concern is the increased traffic and traffic congestion this location will bring to our area. It is estimated that a project of this magnitude can bring up to 750 additional cars per hour,per hour!!to an area that already has overwhelming traffic congestion most of the time. As a point of reference, according to a recent independent study, the Fallston Wal-Mart experiences 500+ cars per hour on a typical Sunday afternoon in an area with little residential exposure, and in an area much better suited for this type of project. My neighbors and I, as well as those in neighboring communities, regularly must wait up to 5 minutes to enter Route 924 to make a left or right turn from our community, at all times of the day. But especially at commute times, after school, and on weekends. It will only get much worse with this project. Likely changes to the road system to accommodate additional traffic will only increase the inconvenience of those of us who live in the area according to independent traffic engineers that have been asked for input. Harford County taxpayers should not have to bear the inconvenience, or financial burden, these changes will bring at the expense of tax dollars that could be used for schools, to improve the infrastructure and enhance environmental needs.

According to a high ranking officer in the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company, the new firehouse being constructed at Route 924 and Patterson Mill Road was located in such close proximity to their main facility in downtown Bel Air because of the delays experienced in getting apparatus on the road because of the traffic in Bel Air. The increased traffic in the area as a result of the proposed Wal-Mart shopping center will only compromise this effort to enhance emergency services to the Bel Air South community.

The opposition to this shopping center project is not a Wal-Mart issue. It is a location issue. We can only hope that those making the final decision will support and maintain the character of the Bel Air South community, its traditions and its great residential neighborhoods.

Edward A. Panowitz

Bel Air

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