UPDATED: Added Concept Plan Map depicting approximately 186,000 square foot facility on 16.74 acres, plus two “developer areas” of 9 and 2.8 acres, respectively.
Wal-Mart appears to be moving ahead with plans to build a retail store on a 33-acre undeveloped parcel near the intersection of Plumtree Rd. and Rt. 924 in Bel Air, according to a meeting announcement, purportedly from a representative of Wal-Mart, which was published on Friday, June 29th, in the legal notices section of a local newspaper.
The announcement indicates that a community input meeting, a required step in the Harford County development process, will be held by representatives of Wal-Mart at Patterson Mill Middle/High School on July 19th from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
The purpose of the meeting is to provide information to the community about the proposed commercial development, which the meeting notice describes as “a Wal-Mart retail store and other commercial uses, with associated infrastructure.” Donald H. Hughes of Bowman Consulting is listed as the point of contact, but Hughes could not be reached for comment late Friday afternoon.
However, two Harford County councilmen said that they had been contacted recently by representatives of the company. Councilman James V. McMahan Jr., representing Bel Air, told The Dagger that his legislative aide had been contacted by the legal firm representing Wal-Mart to arrange a meeting with him, which he said is still in the planning stages. McMahan said that a traffic study commissioned by Wal-Mart had not yet been returned to the county, but that, along with the Department of Planning and Zoning, he planned to take a “hard look” at the study in light of traffic congestion already in the area. Councilman Richard Slutzky, representing Aberdeen, confirmed that his office had also been contacted by Wal-Mart representatives, but he was traveling on Friday and said that he had not yet responded to the meeting request.
Pete Gutwald, director of the Department of Planning and Zoning for Harford County, was not available Friday and officials in his department said they were not aware of a scheduled community input meeting for Wal-Mart. However, Harford County Subdivision Regulations only require that P&Z be notified two weeks prior to the date scheduled by the developer for such a meeting, which, in this case, would be July 5th. Gutwald has said previously that the site in question is zoned for business and is large enough to accommodate a Wal-Mart Super Center.
Wal-Mart has not responded to repeated requests for comment about the company’s plans. Speculation that a store opening in Bel Air would be accompanied by the closing of the nearby Abingdon store has not been confirmed.
A community group formed to oppose Wal-Mart in the Bel Air location, the Bel Air South Community Foundation, is rallying members to attend the July 19th community input meeting to voice their concerns. The group has gathered 400 signatures on an online petition. The petition opposes the store on the grounds that it will hurt existing businesses, increase traffic congestion and may add to crime in the area.
Morita Bruce, president of Friends of Harford, which describes itself as the “citizens’ voice for responsible land use,” cautioned that the purpose of a community input meeting is for the developer to tell the community about the planned development. She said that the public can ask questions and raise concerns, but input from the community can be used, or not, as the developer sees fit. Bruce said that the developer is required to report to P&Z that the meeting was held and provide notes of the input received, but she said that such notes can vary widely in the level of detail recorded.
Below is the text of the announcement of the community input meeting for Wal-Mart in Bel Air, followed by the Harford County Subdivision Regulations for community input meetings.
NOTICE OF COMMUNITY INPUT MEETING
Site Plan for Wal-Mart Retail Store and Other Commercial Uses – Proposal: The site, which is currently zoned B-3 (General Business), includes approximately 33.72 acres (Harford County Tax Map 56, Parcels 56 and 60) located on the southwest corner of the intersection between Plumtree Road and Emmorton Road in Harford County, Maryland (1st Election District). The Applicant proposes to develop the site as a Wal-Mart retail store and other commercial uses, with associated infrastructure.
THE ABOVE SITE PLAN WILL BE THE SUBJECT OF A COMMUNITY INPUT MEETING TO BE HELD:
In the auditorium of Patterson Mill Middle/High School, 85 Patterson Mill Road, Bel Air, Maryland 21015 Thursday, July 19, 2012 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
The purpose of this meeting is for the Applicant to provide information to the community regarding the proposed commercial development (including draft plans for the site layout), and to allow citizens to ask questions and make comments and suggestions.
For more information, please contact Donald H. Hughes, P.E., of Bowman Consulting at (703) 464-1000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you require disability related accommodations, please contact Donald H. Hughes, P.E., of Bowman Consulting at (703) 464-1000 or email@example.com at least five (5) business days prior to the date of the meeting.
Subdivision Regulations for Harford County, Maryland
§ 268-20. Community Input Meetings.
A. Prior to submission of a concept plan, preliminary plan or site plan, for any developments generating 250 or more trips per day, as determined by the most recent version of the I.T.E. Trip Generation Manual, or determined to be a nontransient noncommunity water system, the developer shall hold a community meeting.
B. The community meeting shall be held near the site of the proposed development, preferably in a public or institutional building with adequate parking. The meeting shall be scheduled to start between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. on a weekday evening, or scheduled between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. on a Saturday, excluding all State and County holidays.
C. At least 2 weeks prior to the community meeting, the developer shall ensure that notice of the date, time and location of the community meeting, as well as information about the type of subdivision, including the proposed number of units, has been provided to the following:
(1) All adjoining property owners identified in the records of the State Department of Assessment and Taxation, by first class mail;
(2) The Department of Planning and Zoning, which will post the meeting notice on the Department’s website; and
(3) The County Council.
D. At least 2 weeks prior to the community meeting, the developer shall ensure that the property that is the subject of the proposed development is posted with a notice, obtained from the Department of Planning and Zoning, stating the date, time and location of the community meeting. The notice shall briefly describe the proposed development, specifying the type of subdivision and number of proposed units, and include the Department’s website address. The notice shall be on a sign measuring at least 22 inches by 28 inches. The notice shall be conspicuously placed on the property, near the right-of-way line of each public road that the property has frontage on, at such location that the notice shall be visible, if possible, from each public road on which the property fronts. Following the posting, the developer shall use reasonable efforts to maintain the notice in a condition visible to the public until the date of the community meeting.
E. At least 2 weeks prior to the community meeting, the developer shall ensure that notice of the community meeting is published once a week for 2 consecutive weeks, in at least 2 newspapers generally circulated in Harford County.
F. The purpose of the community meeting is for the developer to provide information to the community regarding the proposed development and to allow citizens to ask questions and to make comments and suggestions.
G. At the community meeting, the developer shall present draft plans for the site layout.
H. The developer shall ensure that a certification of mailed meeting notices and a certification of the newspaper advertisements are included with the preliminary plan or site plan when the plan is submitted to the County.
I. Within 45 calendar days of the community meeting, the developer shall submit a summary of the comments made by citizens at the community meeting to the Department.
J. If the developer does not submit a concept plan, preliminary plan or site plan to the Department within 1 year of the community meeting, or if the plan submitted is substantially different from the plan presented at the community meeting, another community meeting and notification, as specified under this section, shall be required.
Concept Plan Map