Extra security planned for Harford council hearing tonight on Walmart zoning bill

In anticipation of a large crowd, extra security will be in place for a public hearing in Bel Air tonight (Tuesday) on zoning legislation that could derail or seriously delay Walmart's plan to build a new store in the Bel Air South area.

The hearing before the Harford County Council will start at 7 p.m. in the council's chamber in the "black box" building at 212 S. Bond St.


Capacity of the council chamber is 259 people. The chamber has 175 permanent seats.

A council staff member said early Tuesday afternoon that the hearing would not be moved to a larger venue.

Instead, the county has worked with the Sheriff's Office to beef up security in and around the building and to handle traffic control, Eddie Hopkins, spokesperson for the Sheriff's Office said.

Hopkins said additional sheriff's personnel would join the county security staff and deputies who are normally assigned to the council chambers.

The legislation, which is co-sponsored by four of the seven council members, would require developer of big box stores of more than 75,000 square feet to submit their projects to the zoning appeals process, giving the council the final say over the project in its capacity as the county board of appeals.

The plan for the proposed Walmart store at Route 924 and Plumtree Road is still being reviewed by the county planning department.

If the council enacts the legislation - which it can do at any time after the public hearing, including Tuesday night – it could affect the Walmart project, provided the planning department still hasn't approved the plan before the legislation takes effect.

A development advisory committee review of the Walmart project held in the council chamber last October drew a capacity crowd. An estimated 200 people who couldn't get in remained outside on the sidewalk, carrying signs and marching while the proceeding went on inside the chamber.

During that earlier meeting, the county put up some folding chairs in the aisles and along the back of the council chamber to accommodate the large crowd and to prevent those inside from standing while the meeting was in progress.