Unless a traffic light on Liberty Road is operational, the county will not allow Wal-Mart to open its Eldersburg store Feb. 20, a date the retailer has advertised and promoted heavily.
The County Commissioners bowed to pressure from residents and business leaders, who cited safety issues along the congested Liberty Road corridor and insisted the retailer honor its commitment to build a traffic light. The board voted unanimously yesterday to deny the national chain a use and occupancy permit without a working traffic light.
The signal, which the commissioners required before they issued a building permit last spring, has been installed. But it is not expected to be operational until at least three days before the scheduled opening of the 103,500-square-foot, 24-hour store. Bad weather could cause delays.
Crews were working yesterday on the light, which is within a few hundred feet of other signals at Route 32 and Georgetown Boulevard. On Monday, Wal-Mart officials had outlined plans for traffic barricades until the signal is working.
Nearly 100 South Carroll residents called the commissioners in two days and demanded the store "live up to its signal agreement," said Dan Hughes, founder of Solutions for a Better South Carroll.
"Traffic congestion is bad enough," Mr. Hughes said. "All we are asking is for Wal-Mart to make the road safer for commuters."
The light will be the sixth one in a stretch of Liberty Road less than a mile long from Route 32 to Monroe Avenue. Commissioner Richard T. Yates, a resident of the area, has called the road a "killing field" for traffic.
"We believe the county has been more than accommodating with Wal-Mart," said Jerry Thurber, a South Carroll resident. "The store should show good faith and not put temporary measures up. Without the light, Wal-Mart should assume liability for any unsafe conditions it creates."
Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said the county would inform Wal-Mart of its decision immediately.