Woodies' War


Woodward & Lothrop Inc. was never known for environmental activism. Yet it is suing everyone in sight in Anne Arundel County on the grounds the planned expansion of the Annapolis Mall will spoil wetlands, endanger water supplies and increase pollution and traffic. Woodies maintains that's its sole concern. No one believes it.

This activism was triggered by a mall expansion to accommodate Nordstrom's, a move that may affect a nearby Woodies. It has appealed rejection of an earlier challenge to the expansion and also filed lawsuits in federal and state courts alleging that the county worked with the mall to circumvent environmental requirements and that state officials allowed illegal dumping.

Woodies' actions ring hollow. It has served the Annapolis community well in three decades, but its own Parole Plaza site is hardly an example of commerce blending with nature; it's an asphalt prairie. Second, if Woodies' executives were so concerned with the environmental damage, you'd think they'd have contacted neighboring residential groups to join as allies. They haven't.

Third, environmentalists with long memories in Anne Arundel County recall that Woodies, an affiliate of the Taubman Co., lost a pitched battle over the placement of Taubman's Marley Station mall in sensitive wetlands a decade ago.

Woodies has succeeded in delaying the opening of Nordstrom's until 1994. The same arguments Taubman made in the early '80s in support of zoning for its Marley Station -- jobs, tax revenues, consumer choice -- run counter to Woodies' challenge now. Businesses, like individuals, are free to take whatever position they want on an issue, but in trying to halt the mall expansion to protect the environment, Woodies has thrown everything on the table it can find -- save a track record.

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