EDITORIAL FROM THE AEGIS
4:38 PM EST, December 11, 2012
Addressing the Harford County Council last week, Jerry Neutze, who lives on Wheel Road not all that far from where a replacement for the Abingdon Walmart store is likely to be built, said of the planned construction project: "I don't see why people are trying to block the construction of the new one."
The simple answer most opponents have voiced is a new Walmart near the intersection of Route 924 and Plumtree Road is expected to add to traffic problems in the area. Though the claim is disputed by Walmart's representatives, there's probably a measure of truth in the claim.
By the same token, though the Walmart opposition has garnered a fair amount of token support from local elected officials, the too-much-traffic claim rings a bit hollow considering all the other commercial development the county has permitted in the same neighborhood, particularly in the last 25 years since the existing Route 24 was built.
It's likewise worth noting elected officials who have voiced opposition to the Walmart plan have little authority to block the construction because what Walmart has proposed is what's allowed on the property under zoning laws. In addition, in 2008 when four of the current county council members – Boniface, Guthrie, McMahan and Lisanti – had an opportunity to stop future commercial development of the Walmart site in the 2008 rezoning case for the property and did quite the opposite.
Another point worth making as the public debate over a new Walmart rages is that the opening of the Fallston Walmart on Route 1 has had almost no discernible effect on traffic in the area.
Furthermore, there's the matter that Neutze made, namely that the Walmart in Abingdon ticketed for replacement is one of more than a dozen high volume businesses on Constant Friendship Boulevard, and the poorly designed and over burdened entrance and exit strategy for that shopping complex isn't going to be moved to the Plumtree Road location. Walmart is a portion of the Constant Friendship problem and moving it might, at least for a time, improve the existing Constant Friendship traffic issue.
It's hard to imagine what course of action is open to those opposed to the new Walmart, considering what zoning for the property in question allows. It might be that the best thing to do at this point is to acknowledge that the store is likely to be built and to demand its building comes with the best traffic controls possible.