Neighbors fighting that Wal-Mart, again Some residents of Ellicott Meadows angry with homeowners association,too


The Howard County Zoning Board may have finished its deliberations on comprehensive rezoning, but opponents of its decision to allow a warehouse-size store in Ellicott City have not given up.

About 40 residents of Ellicott Meadows, a townhouse community that led the fight against Wal-Mart's original proposal to build two stores next to the community, drew up their plans at a homeowners' meet ing last night.

The group plans to write letters, circulate petitions, make phone calls and recruit other community associations in an effort to make at least three of the five Zoning Board members change their minds about the property at the intersection of U.S. 40 and North Ridge Road.

"What we are most angry about was how we found out about this," said Ellicott Meadows resident Bob Hrivnak.

"It was a shock, because I think most of us thought we had a victory," he said.

That shock translated into mistrust of the directors of the community's homeowners association, who were accused of keeping to them selves information about the possibility of the second rezoning.

"I apologize a little to anyone who feels they were kept in the dark," said Richard Luebke, one of the community's three resident directors.

Mr. Luebke spent much of the meeting going over the history of the two attempts by Wal-Mart to get the property of Nicholas Mangione rezoned from office/research to general business.

Mr. Luebke pointed out that on both occasions he testified against the rezoning.

Residents of his community testified that they feared that the stores would bring smog, trash, noise and crime to their community.

Residents of other communities along the U.S. 40 corridor testified that the stores would increase traffic on an already congested and dangerous section of U.S. 40.

County planners agreed that the highway's intersection with Ridge Road could not handle the traffic, but changed their minds before the second vote, citing a new highway design possibility.

The first Zoning Board vote, in July 1992, unanimously rejected a strictly controlled "site plan" petition to rezone 54 acres for a 114,000-square-foot Wal-Mart and a 130,000-square-foot Sam's Club.

During comprehensive rezoning deliberations Sept. 8, however, the same five members voted to rezone 18 of those acres, with a buffer of apartment zoning between the store site and Ellicott Meadows.

That buffer is small comfort to residents of the northern end of St. John's Lane, however.

"We're going to be doing letter writing, phone calls, whatever we can do" to prevent the rezoning, said Clark Wagner, co-chair with his wife, Cynthia, of the North St. John's Lane Community Association Zoning Committee.

"We were absolutely surprised that something like this made sense, given the go-around for the original [rezoning attempt]," Mr. Wagner said.

The Sept. 8 vote will not be final until board members, who are also County Council members, sign the package of zoning changes Oct. 18.

Many residents of the community have said that they are especially angry with their own county councilman, Darrel Drown.

The 2nd District Republican made the proposal that the board eventually modified and adopted.

Mr. Drown said this week that he made the proposal as an alternative to a more generous rezoning that he believed the board would support.

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