In Hereford, what McDonald's wants isn't what it gets

Hereford does not want to become one more rest stop on America's interstates.

This week, the local community association of the small rural village in north Baltimore County voted 38-31 against a proposal to put a McDonald's restaurant in its neighborhood.


"The majority of us didn't feel that we want Hereford to become like every other interstate exit in the U.S., crowded with fast-food restaurants and the like," said Don Pearce, Hereford Community Association president.

Although the vote carries no official weight, McDonald's representatives have said the corporation would not force the issue if the vote went against the company.


McDonald's officials have said Hereford's location -- just off Interstate 83 and roughly halfway between Cockeysville and Shrewsbury, Pa. -- is ideal for a drive-in restaurant. No other fast-food restaurants are in the area.

Carl Yarema, owner of the Hereford Center and a supporter of a McDonald's restaurant, said the fast-food giant should not give up efforts to put a restaurant in Hereford.

Mr. Yarema said that the vote might have gone McDonald's way if its representatives had done a better job presenting their case to the association at a meeting last month.

Before this week's meeting, held Tuesday night, McDonald's officials requested the vote be postponed. Mr. Pearce that said he was told McDonald's had put the project on indefinite hold.

Gene Dawson, McDonald's real estate manager for the Baltimore area, said the corporation wanted more time to study and plan the project. McDonald's corporate officials did not attend Tuesday's meeting.

"I'm surprised they went ahead with the vote," Mr. Dawson said Wednesday.

Mr. Pearce said the association probably would have delayed the vote if McDonald's had a definite site for the restaurant and was working on a development plan that needed more time.

"But McDonald's told us at last month's meeting they wanted to get the sentiment of the community on its proposal, so the membership voted to proceed with the main vote," Mr. Pearce said.


Linda Howe, regional marketing manager for McDonald's, said the corporation will keep looking for a location in the Hereford area.

Aside from community opposition, McDonald's also would have to overcome a Hereford Town Plan provision that prohibits drive-in restaurants. The plan, approved by the county Planning Board and the County Council in 1990, shows land uses the community favored and opposed, and states that commercial building designs must maintain Hereford's rural character. However, the plan is only a guide.

Jeff Long, community planner for northern Baltimore County, said that even though the Office of Planning and Zoning would likely support a recommendation against a drive-through restaurant, this would not automatically prevent a McDonald's from being built.

To build a drive-in restaurant, McDonald's needs a zoning exception, which could be approved by a county zoning commissioner.