Two Harford council members working to stop new Walmart

At least two members of the Harford County Council, one who made public his plan and the other who is keeping his private, say they are working to stop the controversial Walmart proposed for between Routes 924 and 24 in the Plumtree Road area south of Bel Air.

"I'm not gonna even comment on Walmart," Joe Woods, the councilman who represents Fallston and parts of Abingdon and Bel Air, told members of the Abingdon Community Council at their monthly meeting Monday evening. Then he did comment, sharing little.

"I spent my whole day in the office working on something," Woods, whose council district includes the Walmart site, told the nearly three dozen people gathered in a meeting room at the Abingdon library about his effort to derail the proposed new Walmart. "But, I don't even know if it's legal."

Dion Guthrie, who represents Joppa and part of Abingdon on the county council, followed Woods and shared a tactic he's working on to stop the Walmart from being built where it's been planned.

"We're working to deny [Walmart] access to [Route 924]," Guthrie said. "I don't know if we're gonna be successful, but it's worth a shot."

That approach is aimed at keeping the retailer from being able to get the traffic flow it needs because it won't be able to directly access the more desirable Route 24, to which the State Highway Administration limits access.

"There are no more direct accesses from Route 24," Cynthia Hergenhahn, the chair of the Abingdon Community Council, had said earlier in the meeting.

The Abingdon Community Council meets the fourth Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m. in the Abingdon library to address community concerns. Monday's 75-minute meeting was dominated by talk about how at least those at the meeting are opposed to the retailer building a new Super Walmart near the intersection of Route 924 and Plumtree Road and then abandoning its smaller existing store in Constant Friendship, less than three miles away.

The next step in the fight to stop the Walmart is the county Development Advisory Board meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 17, at 9 a.m. in the Harford County Council chambers at 212 S. Bond St. in Bel Air, the building commonly referred to as the Black Box.

The council chambers is the relocated meeting site in anticipation of a big crowd, county planning officials acknowledged last week.

"I know more than 191 people are going to show up," Jeff Dinger, president and founder of the Bel Air South Community Foundation, said.

Hergenhahn explained the DAC process to those at the meeting who might be planning to attend the meeting and speak against the Walmart plan.

"[Walmart] has done everything they need to do to go the next phase," the community council chair said. The next step is the DAC meeting.

"This meeting is not for community input," Hergenhahn said. "It's for the Development Advisory Committee to review the paperwork."

"It is not like a community input meeting," Morita Bruce, a member of the audience, said. "Moe Davenport pointed out to me early in the process that the only thing they can do is if the facts are not correct." Davenport is the DAC chairman.

"Is there anything else they missed that you know about?" Bruce said. "But it has to be factual."

Another course that's being pursued, though it's more than a mere long shot, is whether the zoning for the property can be changed at such a late stage in the process. After hearing that it can't be done, Hergenhahn expressed her exasperation at the situation.

"If the county council can't change it, and the county executive can't change it," she asked rhetorically, "who can?"

"That's some of the stuff we're working on," Woods said.

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