Neighbors fighting the planned expansion of a Rite Aid Corp. store in the Baltimore County community of Paradise say company officials this week withdrew the proposal in the face of that opposition.
"We're all delighted. Everybody is," said Patricia Bentley, who lives across the street from the Rite Aid store in the 6400 block of Frederick Road. "For now, we are extremely surprised -- pleased, yet wary."
Residents had said expansion of the 7,000-square-foot brick store to a 10,000-square-foot structure with a drive-through window would have cluttered roads and changed the small-town ambience of Paradise, a community east of Interstate 695 on Frederick Road.
Rite Aid officials did not return repeated phone calls for comment this week. But the company yesterday formally withdrew a request for a meeting about the project with the county's Department of Permits and Development Management, according to Donald T. Rascoe, development manager. The meeting had been scheduled for Monday.
A petition with more than 700 signatures is circulating in Paradise protesting the expansion.
About 300 neighbors turned out at a community meeting Monday night at the Christian Temple Church on Edmondson Avenue to argue that the expansion would have eliminated smaller businesses, including a Pizza Hut carryout, the Thai Paradise restaurant and a seafood store.
Pamela Fetsch, president of the Paradise Community Association, said some feared that the Paradise store would close because of market saturation -- there are three other Rite Aid stores within a three-mile radius of Paradise.
Fetsch said Rite Aid officials failed to respond to requests from the community to explain why the expansion was necessary. A certified letter to corporation Chairman Martin L. Grass went unanswered.
Because of that, Fetsch said many neighbors wonder if Rite Aid's pledge to withdraw its expansion plans are temporary or permanent.
"Rite Aid said it did not want to be at war with the community," Fetsch said. "They are now saying they want to work with the community. I don't know. There is a lot of distrust because of past behavior."
The Paradise controversy occurred as Rite Aid has embarked on a $200 million advertising campaign and expansion of its 4,010 stores in 31 states. The chain has posted sales of $12 billion in 1997.
Pub Date: 6/04/98