Wal-Mart appeals board's denial of proposed Ellicott City rezoning


Wal-Mart Stores Inc. lost another round this week but continues its fight for the rezoning needed to build two warehouse-sized stores in Ellicott City.

The County Council, acting as the Zoning Board, unanimously rejected on Monday a request for reconsideration of its July 29 denial of Wal-Mart's rezoning petition.

The petition had sought to rezone 54 acres in Ellicott City near U.S. 29 and 40 for retail rather than office use. The nation's largest retailer hopes to build a 14,000-square-foot Wal-Mart department store and a 13,000-square-foot Sam's Club wholesale outlet.

The same day, Wal-Mart and property owner Nicholas Mangione filed an appeal of the Zoning Board's denial in county Circuit Court.

Wal-Mart's attorney, Richard B. Talkin, now has 10 days to file arguments supporting that appeal. He could not be reached for comment.

That 11-page petition's arguments included the assertion that the board did not properly consider economic trends such as the county's depressed office market.

To prove that an individual rezoning is warranted, a petitioner must show that the Zoning Board erred in its last comprehensive rezoning or that the character of the neighborhood has changed since then.

Thomas M. Meachum, an attorney who represents residents opposed to the Wal-Mart petition, said the company has proven neither.

"Even their own witnesses testified that the downturn in the office market did not occur until approximately 1987," he said. The last comprehensive rezoning was in 1985.

Wal-Mart also failed to show what made the Ellicott City property different from other office-zoned property in the county, Mr. Meachum said. "If that argument were accepted, then all of these properties that were zoned office could come in and get B-2 [general business] zoning," Mr. Meachum said.

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