Residents wary of Wal-Mart part of rezoning plan County officials to hold meeting


If it looks like a Wal-Mart site and if it's zoned like a Wal-Mart site, then residents of the Wheatfields subdivision in Ellicott City want to know if 52 acres near Route 103 could be the next site for a Wal-Mart store in Howard County.

Residents say they'll ask a lot of questions at a meeting tonight when county planning officials present their plans for comprehensive rezoning of the eastern portion of the county. The meeting begins at 6:45 p.m. at Ellicott Mills Middle School.

The county administration's rezoning proposal would grant general business zoning for the property between Route 103, U.S. Route 29, Route 100 and Long Gate Parkway.

The site now contains a mix of shopping center, local business, town house and detached house zoning.

The plan must be approved by County Council members sitting as the Zoning Board.

Developer Robert R. Moxley has said he intends to build a shopping center anchored by a grocery store and lease retail space to smaller stores on the site.

Some residents are concerned that those plans could change.

"If they would put [the center] in, I would help them carry the bricks in," said Wheatfields resident Mark Muedeking, who lives three blocks away.

But Mr. Muedeking said he and many of his neighbors see the site as too similar to one less than two miles north, where neighbors won a protracted zoning battle against Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Landowner Nicholas Mangione and the retailer are now appealing that Zoning Board decision to Circuit Court in a continuing effort to locate a department store and a members-only wholesale outlet on 54 acres near the intersection of Route 40 and U.S. Route 29.

It's not just Wal-Mart, but any similar warehouse-sized store such as Pace or Leedmark, that Mr. Muedeking and some of his neighbors oppose.

Mr. Moxley and his consultants met with leaders of the neighboring community associations last Monday, said Columbia attorney David A. Carney, who represents Mr. Moxley.

"We showed them plans for a retail facility, but we don't have users and Wal-Mart has not contacted us," Mr. Carney said.

"They have shown no interest in our Long Gate property. They have said from a year ago that their interest was only on Route 40."

Representatives of Wal-Mart have said repeatedly that they are not interested in other Howard County sites.

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