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Owens to let projects advance


County Executive Janet S. Owens said yesterday that she will let two development projects - a Wal-Mart in Parole and a Safeway in Deale - go forward as planned, despite intense objections from two heavyweights.

Just back from a two-week vacation, Owens said she was surprised to learn of criticism from business software provider Usinternetworking Inc. The company assailed the plan to build a Wal-Mart in the Parole Plaza shopping center across the street from its world headquarters.

The County Council recently gave the project a green light after defeating a bill that would have blocked the "big-box" plan.

Owens also said she was puzzled by a letter from state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. asking to delay construction of a Safeway supermarket and strip mall in south county until an independent party could review the project's approval.

Owens had a meeting scheduled last night with Jeffrey L. McKnight Sr., the executive vice president of USi, who had written to her July 14 expressing his company's dismay with the proposed Wal-Mart.

"Frankly, the letter came as a surprise," Owens said yesterday. "USi had never expressed any concerns."

The 2-year-old high-tech firm is one of the county's most successful and rapidly growing companies, with a record of significant community involvement and the potential to attract other technology-sector businesses to the area. McKnight has said his company had privately conveyed its feelings about the proposed development for Parole Plaza but avoided a public stand.

Owens' meeting with McNight would be the second of the day dealing with the Parole development. Earlier, representatives from the county's legislative delegation met with Paul Zanecki, head of the state growth commission, to gather information about possible Smart Growth planning incentives and programs for the Parole area.

Smart Growth is Gov. Parris N. Glendening's plan to regulate sprawl throughout the state.

Earlier this week, Del. C. Richard D'Amato, a 30th District Democrat, said the governor was interested in targeting the Parole area as a possible Smart Growth model.

Local zoning issues

The state does not involve itself in local zoning issues, such as those that determine the fate of a proposed Wal-Mart. But there is a question whether a so-called "big-box" store would fit in with Smart Growth goals for an area designated as a "town center."

Zanecki said the legislators asked questions yesterday morning about possible program incentives and "master plans," documents developed by the county that outline community development goals.

The Parole master plan has been a point of contention with opponents of the proposed Wal-Mart. They say the store does not comply with the intended Parole "town center" outlined in the master plan and therefore should not be built.

Anne Arundel Planning and Zoning Officer Denis Canavan granted conditional approval for the Wal-Mart proposal even though it does not fit with the Smart Growth vision for Parole.

"The proposal Mr. Canavan approved complies with Anne Arundel law, but not necessarily the vision in the Parole plan," said county planning spokesman John A. Morris.

Safeway plan dispute

The dispute over the Safeway plan revolves around whether the proposed development is in a flood plain.

The Senate president's involvement came more than a month after Planning and Zoning ruled that the property is not in a flood plain, allowing the project to go forward. Safeway can now apply for waivers and obtain permits.

"I was surprised he didn't call me up and ask what was going on," Owens said of Miller's request to solicit an independent review of the decision.

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