Hundreds of residents send e-mails declaring opposition to Bel Air Walmart

Bel Air and Abingdon residents continue to voice their opposition to the proposed Walmart site by sending e-mails en masse to county officials and The Aegis.

Between Thursday and Tuesday evenings, more than 300 e-mails, the majority of which declared opposition to the proposed move, were sent to The Aegis, Harford County Council President Billy Boniface, Harford County Executive David Craig and planning and zoning director Pete Gutwald.

Most of the form e-mails read the same:

"I want to go on record as saying I am strongly opposed to a Bel Air Wal-Mart."

"I find it disturbing that Wal-Mart is claiming to have 1,500 Pro-Walmart signatures when a hand count of their submission shows there were only 1,012 line entries on the petition that included signatures and of which 193 were from outside the Edgewood, Joppa, Abingdon and Bel Air areas. That equals 819 legitimate signatures."

"Walmart acquired their signatures from tables setup outside their stores and manned by employees. I think it safe to assume that a person on their way into shop has little time to consider the impact of a store relocation and will likely support a new grocery selling Bel Air super center if told the Constant Friendship store will be closing. The option for a Constant Friendship super center was not offered. I think it likely that the 409 Edgewood and Joppa residents that signed the petition might have a different opinion if given that option."

"In contrast, the nearly 2,000 signatures opposed to a Bel Air Wal-Mart were acquired from citizens attending county and community meetings, rallies and door to door canvassing."

"The proof is in the pudding. At the October 17 DAC meeting, there were 300 plus in attendance that were opposed to a Bel Air Wal-Mart and only about 12 in favor of. Not one person in favor stood up to support the new store."

Only one e-mail received in the batch sent to The Aegis was in favor of the project.

The message written by Curtis P. Bauer of Bel Air read, "Just a short note to express my FAVOR for the new Walmart in Abingdon. It is the lesser of the evils. It certainly is better then several hundred apartments or row houses which would generate more 24/7 traffic and crowd our schools. I believe this community effort should be directed to the 200 apartments proposed for the parcel at the corner of 924 and Plumtree. It would also be interesting to know who is financing all the professional signs."

Some residents added personal comments to the form e-mail.

Meghan Crosby Budinger, of Abingdon, added, "ENOUGH with the big box stores, super markets and general sprawl. You are allowing Harford County and all the reasons my family chose to live here to be ruined."

Deborah Harrison, who lives in Bel Air, wrote, "I received a postcard from Walmart asking me to send it back as a supporter of a new Walmart Supercenter with groceries in Harford County. We already have one."

"I haven't sent it back, but if I did it would say: 'NO. All this for only 100 new lowpaying jobs? I think not,'" Harrison's comment continued. "And that is what I say to you."

Residents have been up in arms over Walmart's proposed move from its location in Constant Friendship to Bel Air South. The site for the new store is at the intersection of Route 924 and Plumtree Road in a heavily developed commercial and residential area.

Many protests have been held, those in opposition frequently speak at county council meetings and, most recently, hundreds flooded county council chambers on Oct. 17 for the county's Development Advisory Committee hearing on the site plans.

County planning officials say they will continue to review the Walmart plan, which already meets zoning requirements, for conformance with development regulations, including such aspects as lighting, access, landscaping and noise control. The State Highway Administration is also reviewing the plan, because Route 924 is a state highway.

The county council has requested by resolution that the SHA not grant the planned Walmart access to Route 924, a possible death blow to the project if SHA complies with the council's request.

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