Howard panel delays Wal-Mart hearing on zoning petition


The Howard County zoning board last night postponed until late February a hearing on whether Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will be allowed to build a department store and members-only wholesale buying club in Ellicott City.

C. Vernon Gray, the board chairman, said the panel was awaiting information in order to rule on a nine-point motion calling for dismissal of Wal-Mart's zoning petition.

The motion, filed by the Wilder Building Corp., a town house developer, alleges that Wal-Mart's petition to rezone 54 acres near U.S. 29 and U.S. 40 for retail rather than office use "is both inappropriate and premature" because its site plan documentation is incomplete.

Wal-Mart, the nation's leading retailer, had amended its site plan, company lawyer Richard L. Talkin said, to meet objections raised by nearby residents at a planning board hearing in November. Mr. Talkin contended the documentation was complete, saying that if it were not, the case never would have gotten this far.

If the board affirms the motion, the case will be dismissed without a hearing.

Cindy Wagner, who lives in the St. John's Lane neighborhood about a half-mile from the proposed building site, called the postponement "a nice victory."

Ms. Wagner was among 79 people attending last night's meeting, most them wearing small orange squares that read, "Say No," alluding to the zoning change.

She said she'd come because she was "scared." She planned to tell the zoning board her life would become "miserable" and her home would have no value in 10 years if Wal-Mart won the zoning change.

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