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Planned Walmart move remains an irritant [Letter]

Walmart

Editor:

There are 46 Walmarts in the state of Maryland.

If you were to look at each using the criteria of: 1) Proximity to residential neighborhoods 2) Proximity to public schools 3) Number of through lanes with direct access to the store and 4) Lead in distance to the stores access point, (i.e. Distance on Bel Air South Parkway between Route 24 and the Blue Spruce access point), you will find that compared to other stores, the Bel Air Walmart will be among the more intrusive and inappropriately placed Walmarts in the state! An inappropriately placed big box store that will detract from the quality of life we currently enjoy is not the vision we the citizens hold for our community.

The late Sam Walton, founder of Walmart said, "Each Walmart store should reflect the values of its customers and support the vision they hold for their community." In this regard, the current Walmart hierarchy has ignored the voice of its founding father just as it has ignored the voice of the people of Bel Air South and Abingdon.

Nine hundred concerned citizens arrived at Patterson Mill High School last July in pouring rain to oppose the proposed Bel Air super center. Our County Executive expressed his concerns and asked Walmart to explore other alternatives. Three hundred took off work in order to attend a DAC meeting to oppose Walmart. Three thousand have signed a petition opposing a Bel Air store! Walmart has repeatedly ignored the vision the people hold for their community and continue to move forward with their plans.

A Walmart Super Center, adjacent to neighborhoods and a school zone that will be subject to an additional 10,000 cars daily, poses traffic safety and congestion issues that will be with us for decades. Nowhere on Route 924 is there a traffic signal specifically designed to control ingress and egress traffic for shopping malls or individual stores. Walmart's proposal for not one, but two such traffic signals to control traffic to and from their store is unprecedented. These signals will interrupt an already area-stressed traffic flow, placing an imposition on all in order to satisfy the needs of a big box store that the majority oppose.

The Bel Air South and Abingdon communities are being pressured to discard their vision for their community and accept Walmart's. That Walmart will not go into any community where it is not welcome could not be further from the truth. It is for situations like this, in which big box stores can adversely affect quality of life, that our county councilmen have submitted legislation that will place more control in the hands of the citizens. For that we applaud them! Walmart responded to the proposed legislation by saying it discriminates against business based solely on size. This legislation is not discriminatory. It just recognizes that big businesses have big impacts and those impacts must be scrutinized to insure not only citizen safety but the vision a community holds for itself. Sam Walton would have agreed, if not Walmart's current leadership.

Walmart has said that a Bel Air Super Center will create jobs, spur the economy and offer additional affordable shopping options. This would also hold true for an expanded and renovated Constant Friendship Wal-Mart. On numerous occasions Wal-Mart has been asked why it will not expand its existing Constant Friendship store. To date, we have yet to hear a credible answer. Interestingly enough, in the original site plans for the Constant Friendship store, Walmart made provisions for a 30,000 square foot expansion to the rear of the store. Measurements taken of the property also indicate there is ample room for an additional 30,000 square feet to the right of the store making it similar in size to the proposed Bel Air store. A Constant Friendship Super Center that is located adjacent to the recently upgraded I-95 intersection will conveniently serve the Bel Air, Abingdon, Edgewood and Joppatowne communities. It is time for Walmart to begin listening to and supporting the many Harford County citizens who have patronized their stores and put millions of dollars in their coffers.

Join the Bel Air store opposition by attending a rally at the Constant Friendship Walmart on April 6 from 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Steve Tobia

Abingdon

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