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Wal-Mart now wants Supercenter in Crofton

The Baltimore Sun

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has revamped its plans in Crofton and now wants to build the Baltimore region's fifth Supercenter, adding a supermarket to the retail chain's traditional shopping component - after repeatedly denying an interest in offering low-cost groceries.

A revised proposal recently submitted to Anne Arundel County shows a store of about 121,000 square feet - about 22,000 square feet smaller than the one first offered - but adding about 29,000 square feet for groceries.

In late January, the retailer, which opened a Supercenter in Aberdeen in 2005, announced plans to open three more in the region. It will close a Wal-Mart store in Hunt Valley Town Centre and replace it with a Supercenter nearby and build Supercenters in Arbutus and north of Crofton at the Quarterfield Crossing shopping center in Glen Burnie.

Lawmakers and civic leaders worry that the draw of a Supercenter would negate any traffic and environmental benefit of a smaller store in Crofton.

"They made a fundamental change to the character of the project without consulting us and notifying us, and that concerns us," County Councilman Edward R. Reilly, a Crofton Republican, said yesterday. "I am very disappointed that they didn't contact us."

In three meetings in recent months with residents, Wal-Mart officials repeatedly told residents they had no plans to build a Supercenter, Reilly said.

Rhoda Washington, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman, did not return several calls seeking comment. Robert Jeter, an engineer for Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc., which is overseeing the project planning, could not be reached for comment.

The expanded retail use of a Supercenter would "create a regional draw" that would generate higher traffic than a traditional Wal-Mart, said Stephen Donnelly, president of the Walden Community Association in Crofton and a professional planner.

Wal-Mart's decision to build on 20 acres at Route 3 near Cronson Boulevard had incited outrage, sparking a petition drive and motivating state officials late last year to hold a meeting on the project's environmental impact.

Critics say such a large retail store would compound traffic along the Route 3 corridor between Bowie and Gambrills and damage wetlands along the Patuxent River watershed. Wal-Mart has called for filling in at least 3,500 cubic yards of nontidal wetlands along the Little Patuxent River.

After meeting heavy resistance, company officials told lawmakers in August that they would reduce the store size from 143,000 square feet. That store was not planned as a Supercenter.

The grocery store would compete with two other supermarkets, a Giant and a Shoppers Food Warehouse within a mile at the intersection of Route 424.

Councilman Jamie Benoit, a Piney Orchard Democrat who represents the area where the Wal-Mart has been proposed, took offense at Wal-Mart's decision: "The message that Wal-Mart is sending: They don't care what the residents of this county think."

Benoit added: "I don't know what they are trying to do. If they are trying to incite major, major community resentment, they are going to succeed."

Wal-Mart's latest plan prompted Torrey C. Jacobsen Jr., president of the Greater Crofton Council, an umbrella organization for local community associations, to renew his call for a short-term development ban along Route 3 until further study on overhauling the state highway is complete.

"That's what we asked for before," Jacobsen said. "And that's what we expect. We need to stop playing around with these developers. A moratorium is the only answer right now."


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