xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Zoning problems lead to Mall Wars

If you thought since the elections were behind you that bad-mouthing and scheming were over, think again.

For Baltimore County residents, especially in the Reisterstown-Pikesville-Owings Mills area, the political battles continue. Over the next few years, they could be vicious.

We are in the midst of "Mall Wars," a no-holds-barred struggle between mighty developers intent on getting their way at any cost.

On one side is a group that won County Council zoning approval in August to bring an upscale Wegmans supermarket to the abandoned Solo Cup factory that looms over Reisterstown and Painters Mill roads. This is the centerpiece of a $140 million retail project.

On the other side sit well-connected developers intent on protecting their commercial properties from competition.

If they succeed, Baltimore County's zoning process will be in shambles. Indeed, development in the county's northwest and eastern districts will be halted for at least two years.

Nothing new will be built because no one will be able to get financing given the zoning uncertainties.

The winners will be current property owners like the chief protagonists in this unseemly drama, Howard Brown and David Cordish.

Brown is building Metro Center, a mixed-use complex down the road. He's gotten strong support from the new owner of the adjacent Owings Mills Mall, who doesn't want a similar retail project in the neighborhood.

Cordish owns a Middle River shopping center containing a Walmart, which wants to relocate to an old depot planned as a mixed-use mall. Cordish wants to quash those plans.

Having lost their arguments before the County Council, they are challenging the rezoning maps - an unprecedented move - and hired out of state professionals to gather petition signatures. The Solo Cup site developer fought back. Allegations and innuendos have been thrown around with abandon.

Now the issue is before the county elections board, which must validate the signatures. The Solo Cup site developer claims the petition drive was fatally flawed.

There's been one court clash and more are inevitable. Both sides are spending huge sums to win.

Delaying the rezoning maps gives Brown's project at the Owings Mills Metro station a big advantage. If enough signatures are approved, all the district's zoning changes will be overturned until voters decide their fate in 2014.

That coincides with local elections, which means Councilwomen Vicki Almond and Kathy Bevins, the prime targets of angry developers, will be targeted again.

It could get wild and wooly.

The losers are county residents who want new stores like Wegmans or a super-sized Walmart in their community and don't mind seeing retailers compete for business. That's the American way, right?

Not for owners of existing commercial developments. For them, retaining a monopoly on local shoppers is the name of the game.

Barry Rascovar of Reisterstown is a political columnist and communications consultant. His email address is brascovar@hotmail.com.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement