Many people arrived at Patterson Mill High School this past July to attend a Community Interest Meeting held by Walmart. In the pouring rain they filed into a standing room only auditorium to listen to Walmart's proposal to relocate their Constant Friendship store to the corner of Route 924 and Plumtree Road. A spirited crowd sent a message that was loud and clear: "You are not welcome here!"
Walmart ignored them. Our county executive publicly opposed Walmart's relocation and asked that they explore other options. Walmart ignored him. It is apparent that our community, the place we live, work and send our children to school is of little concern to this corporate giant.
We are not against Walmart; we are against their proposed location. They have had a presence in this county for more than 19 years. We patronize their three stores and we welcome their new super center, as long as it is located at their existing Constant Friendship site. Not too much to ask. Expand and remodel the existing store or start anew. If the proposed 185,000-square-foot store won't fit, then build one the size of the Fallston store, but don't abandon a site where you are welcome and relocate to a site where you are not. Not at our expense for the benefit of your wallet and convenience.
It is perplexing as to why Walmart wants to relocate. Why build the largest store in Harford County in the middle of a light commercial and residential area? Their Constant Friendship store is readily accessible to the Edgewood and Joppa communities, to those going to and coming from I-95 and is an easy four-mile drive down Route 24 for those living in Bel Air.
Yet their proposal will funnel traffic into the heart of the Abingdon and South Bel Air communities. With the two store entrances being located on Bel Air South Parkway and Route 924, it will further exasperate an already congested traffic situation. It is not a good fit and it will have a devastating effect on this community. We know it, Walmart knows it, but the project relentlessly moves on. [The late] Sam Walton once said, "Each Walmart store should reflect the values of its customers and support the vision they hold for their community."
We now know first-hand this is not true. As the nation's largest company they build what they want, where they want and when they want regardless of the desires of the people.
Grab your cameras. Unless we stop Walmart, the face our community will soon drastically change. Land will be stripped and roads will be widened to handle the expected 10,000 cars per day.
We the taxpayer will foot the majority of that road work bill. The dozens of trees and finely manicured landscape around Festival will give way to pavement. Light from their 880-car parking lot will shine 24/7 onto nearby residents. Will our roadways be as safe and our community as secure with increased traffic and people from other areas transiting and shopping in our community? We already enjoy abundant shopping. Is a super center needed? There are dozens of stores in Festival and the local area that Walmart will compete directly with including: Shop Rite, Rite-Aid, Marshalls, Mr. Tire, NTB, Pay-less shoes, Eye Fit Vision to mention a few. Will they survive or will we grow accustomed to vacant store fronts? As we sit in traffic snarled by road construction, we will have ample time to contemplate the cost of cheap Walmart groceries.
Stand up and do what is right! Unite and we will save our community! Boycott the Constant Friendship Walmart! Let them hear the voice of the people, that this is a community of the people, for the people and not that of a corporate bully. Our just reward will be apparent each time we drive past Walmart and notice its empty parking lot. An empty lot means no revenue. Then, and only then, will Walmart reconsider its options.
Don't hesitate. Start boycotting today. Walmart has blatantly ignored us; it is time for us to ignore Walmart.