Wal-Mart is moving ahead with plans to open a new Supercenter in Bel Air, taking another step in the development process last Friday by submitting a proposed site plan and a traffic impact analysis to the Harford County Department of Planning and Zoning. The move is another in a series of steps required prior to county approval of the project.
The proposed site plan map submitted on September 14th appears similar to one made public at a required community meeting that was held by the company in July. The plan calls for a 185,706 sq.ft. store and a parking lot with 752 spaces located on nearly 17 acres near Plumtree Rd. and MD Rt. 924. The proposed site plan map shows additional lanes on Rt. 924 near the store and a new traffic light at the intersection of Rt. 924 and Bright Oaks Drive. A berm is shown along the section of Rt. 924 that borders the store site.
Also shown is an extension of Blue Spruce Rd. connecting Bel Air South Parkway to Plumtree Rd. Three access points to the store are shown: one from Blue Spruce Drive, another at Bright Oaks Drive and Rt. 924, and another from Plumtree Rd. Proposed sidewalks are shown surrounding the store on some sides, along with tree areas in two locations. The map indicates two potential locations for eight foot “monument” signs. Final landscape design will be determined during final construction drawings, according to the plan.
Below is the proposed site plan:
Traffic Impact Analysis
Excerpts from the summary findings of the traffic impact analysis are provided below. The analysis, provided by Wal-Mart, includes suggested mitigation at five intersections to satisfy Harford County guidelines and to mitigate the impact from the development of the Bel Air site. They are:
MD 24 at Plumtree Road:
“…adding a second southbound MD 24 left turn lane and a second westbound Plumtree Road left turn lane.”
MD 24 at Bel Air South Parkway:
“…a second left turn lane is recommended along both eastbound and westbound Bel Air South Parkway onto MD 24.”
Bel Air South Parkway at Blue Spruce Drive:
“…With the implementation of a traffic signal, minor street delay is reduced and an acceptable level of service can be provided.”
MD 924 at Bel Air South Parkway:
“Provide an additional through lane in the northbound direction. It is anticipated that the northbound lane will continue north of the new site access and drop at Plumtree Road; and… a second eastbound left turn lane from Bel Air South Parkway onto northbound MD 924 while changing the right most lane to a shared through/right turn lane.”
MD 924 at Bright Oaks Drive/Site Access:
“Traffic signalization is recommended to facilitate access to and egress from the site…a second through lane will be needed along northbound MD 924 within this road segment. A separate left turn lane is recommended along northbound 924. A separate right turn lane is needed along southbound MD 924. The site access approach should provide a shared left through lane and separate right turn lane.”
The improvements to failing intersections recommended above are subject to review and approval by county officials and the State Highway Administration (SHA). The county and/or state may also require different improvements than those recommended by Wal-Mart. Improvements required to mitigate the impact from a development are paid for by the developer.
The complete summary appears in the window below:
The complete traffic impact analysis is available online here: www.harfordcountymd.gov/gis. Click on link for Walmart TIA, then open the pdf – Walmart Bel Air – TIA. County officials caution that the file is large.
Hard copies of both the site plan maps and traffic study are available for review at the Department of Planning and Zoning located on the second floor of the county administration building at 220 South Main Street in Bel Air. Office hours are from 7:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Copies are also available for a fee of 25 cents per page for the 622-page traffic study, and $2 per page for the three-page site plan, which requires large-page duplication.
Wal-Mart Moves Forward Despite Intervention by Harford County Executive David Craig
Wal-Mart’s latest move to build a mega-store in Bel Air comes despite intervention from Harford County Executive David Craig. Following public outcry from area residents, Craig urged the company to expand its Abingdon store, rather than proceed with plans to close the older store and move to a new Supercenter in Bel Air.
In a statement issued in July, Craig echoed concerns raised by Bel Air residents who are angry with the company and county officials alike for a move that they say will further snarl traffic in the area. The Bel Air site, which is currently undeveloped, was zoned B3 by the county in 2009. The classification permits so-called “big box” retail stores.
Craig has acknowledged that county zoning allows for the proposed Bel Air Supercenter, but met with Wal-Mart officials to discuss his concerns and what the county might do to help the company develop a Supercenter at the Abingdon location instead.
Aaron Tomarchio, chief of staff to Craig, said at an August Abingdon Community Council meeting that according to those discussions, Wal-Mart wanted to be in the Bel Air market, with a store modeled after the Fallston Supercenter. Like other Supercenters, the Fallston store sells groceries.
Tomarchio said the company believes they could “get around” a restriction on grocery sales at the Abingdon location, but company engineers didn’t think the Supercenter plan was a fit with the Abingdon site. Tomarchio said the company was asked to reconsider the feasibility of an Abingdon expansion, but he didn’t hold out hope for a change of course.
Battle Lines Drawn
Making the case for a Wal-Mart in Bel Air, the company recently sent mailers to area residents soliciting support for the move from Abingdon. “A new Walmart Supercenter in Harford County will bring convenience, savings and jobs to the community,” reads one mailer. Offering 100 new jobs, additional tax revenue, and energy-saving initiatives in the new building, the mailer also cites a study finding that Wal-Mart saves the average household more than $3,100 per year. A tear-off return postcard is included, with boxes for residents to check if they are willing to write letters or attend a meeting in support of the new Bel Air store. To learn more, residents are asked to call 866-458-1178 or email the company at Harford@walmartsupport.com. Some residents have also reported receiving phone calls from the company in recent days, asking about their support for the new store.
In the other corner, the Bel Air South Community Foundation, formed to oppose the Bel Air Wal-Mart, has gathered signatures on a petition and is soliciting volunteers and donations. The group has a Web site, nobelariwalmart.org, and is planning to distribute bumper stickers and yard signs, according to members of the group. Area residents have also flooded public meetings and called for a boycott of the Abingdon store. The Abingdon Community Council issued a statement in August, opposing the move to Bel Air and calling for county officials to conduct a “thorough and proper review of any development proposal.”
UPDATE: A Development Advisory Committee meeting to review the proposed Supercenter has been scheduled by the Department of Planning and Zoning for 9:00 a.m on Wednesday, Oct. 17. The meeting will be held in the Harford County Council Chambers at 212 South Bond Street in Bel Air. The meeting is open to the public.