The following letter was sent from William F. Wehland to sent to Nina Albert, Director, Wal-Mart Community Affairs and Wal-Mart executives Jim Walton (CEO), Michael Duke (President), William Simon (Executive VP), Bill Wertz (Community Affairs/Media) and Tom Kleine (Attorney-Troutman & Sanders). A copy was provided to The Dagger for publication.
Dear Ms Albert:
On November 29, 2012 Steve Tobia and I had the opportunity to meet with you for the purpose of discussing the potential expansion capabilities of Walmart Store # 2009 at Constant Friendship in Abingdon. We pointed out that the original store built in 1992 as 116,097 SF had accounted for a future expansion on the site plan of 30,000 Sq. Ft. in the rear of the store. A 4,000 Sq Ft. addition had been added to the right front and presently there is a Garden Center to the right side of approximately 14,600 Sq. Ft. A drawing was provided to you along with actual photos and measurements that show an expansion of 30,000 or more Sq. Ft. is also possible to the left of the store. The number of parking spaces is adequate for any type of aggressive expansion.
At the meeting you told us you were unaware of the 30,000 Sq. Ft. future expansion capability to the rear of the store and did not know all of the reasons for not being able to expand. You mentioned it is a preference of Walmart to expand an existing store rather than build a new store but that the expansion would not be accomplished on more than two sides of a building. You promised to get our drawings and comments to the right people for evaluation.
On December 6, 2012 by E-mail you apologized for the delay and promised again to provide our drawings and comments to the appropriate people with Walmart. You promised to get back to us about any setbacks and buffers so at least we all knew which ones they were.
On December 10, 2012 Steve Tobia sent you an E-mail discussing, in more detail, logical reasons and concepts for expansion capabilities. By your E-mail of December 31, 2012 you indicated there are other factors to consider and ended with a statement that relocating is a better option and that is why Walmart is exploring how to make that option a win-win for all, including the community. You further indicated that you had already heard our feedback and that of the community and were looking for solutions that would improve the community’s experience along the Route 24 and Plumtree corridors. Once again you said the previous calculations and comments would get to the right people.
It is a matter of record that on October 8, 2012 your team had a closed session with the Abingdon Community Council officers and representatives from the County Executive’s office. The official minutes of the County and Abingdon Council quote you as saying the following about expansion:
1. The parking lot slopes so no expansion can occur to the front.
2. A viable business is located to the rear of the property.
3. To expand to the west side would reduce the number of parking spaces.
4. Expansion to the side would also interfere with a storm water management buffer.
5. Walmart would not close a store for remodeling because jobs would be lost.
My response to those statements is as follows:
1. There is no need to expand to the front and an expansion on a sloping parking lot could be done if necessary.
2. The viable storage business does not interfere with ability to expand to the rear and future expansion had been accounted for on the original site plan approved by the County.
3. There is no need to expand to the west side where the present garden center exists.
4. Expansion to the left side will not interfere with the SWM which is to the forward side of the store and to the far left of the parking lot.
5. The expansion to the rear and left side would not interfere with daily business and the store does not need to close down while remodeling is accomplished. This has been done in the past at other Walmart locations.
It is my understanding you also have said you cannot expand all four sides of the building while maintaining store operations and the minimal available expansion envelope would be primarily to the rear. Additionally, you would need a 60 foot portion of the parcel behind the store and you were precluded from expanding to an adequate size needed in a potential expanded store.
My response to those statements are there is no need to expand on all four sides of the building; you have 80 foot or more to expand to the rear; you can achieve an expanded capacity to equal or exceed the store proposed at Route 924 and Plumtree and the existing Supercenter at Fallston. It is simply a matter of being creative and properly engineering the existing location which Walmart has done in the past.
I have taken issue with recent comments made by Bill Wertz in The Aegis that the Abingdon store is not eligible for expansion; expanding the store would involve much disruption of activity; business could not be carried out in a satisfactory way; and Walmart is working on a traffic plan that will be satisfactory to both the State Highway Administration and County.
To date Bill Wertz, yourself, and other Walmart personnel have not provided to the public any credible explanations as to why expansion is not possible at the existing location. You have not responded as promised to the information provided to you on November 29th and subsequent E-mails after that meeting. I find this to be quite disturbing for an individual responsible for community affairs who readily admitted during our meeting in November that Walmart had not done a good job of informing the public why expansion was not possible at the existing location. You said this needed to be done as promised at the Community Input Meeting in July.
Please understand there are many communities in Maryland and the United States that desire and welcome a new Walmart. Our community supports the Constant Friendship and Aberdeen Walmart stores as well as the new Supercenter at Fallston, all of which are in close proximity to your proposed site. However, you and other Walmart personnel, including your top executives, are well aware our community is strongly opposed to this re-location and continue to move forward without any regard to the community concerns. The residents have provided many legitimate reasons why we do not want a Walmart at the proposed location and are very happy with the three existing stores.
Based upon the comments you have received from the Development Advisory Committee to your submitted TIA, any additional traffic will compromise the safety and function of the state highway roadway network along Route 924, 24 and the major intersections near the proposed site. It is highly probable Walmart and your traffic engineers will not be able to mitigate the traffic and safety concerns. This alone should drive Walmart to stop the pursuit of a new store and instead shift the focus to optimize the Constant Friendship store expansion.
While we recognize that Walmart has a legal right to build a new store at the proposed location, we also hope Walmart recognizes the value of their standing in this community for many years and the responsibility with which that comes. We believe the community has shown in action and by providing Walmart with sound and logical reasons that this is not the proper location and why Walmart is not wanted at this location. Mr. Pete Gutwald has stated that Walmart has not approached the Planning and Zoning Department relative to expansion capabilities and will be happy to pursue all of the possibilities to expand. It is our hope that you consider the concept of expansion at the highly visible existing site at I-95 and Route 24 in lieu of re-location to an area that is already beyond its development and traffic capacity.
The County Executive, County Council, the Director of Planning & Zoning Department, the local community organizations and the citizens are all willing to work with you to make the expansion at Constant Friendship a workable solution that could end up being a cost effective solution and in your best interests and those of the surrounding community.
It is our desire to have a continuing dialogue with you and I personally look forward to the courtesy of a response.
William F. Wehland
Spike Nayvon says
I’m sure WalMart apprieciates you telling them how to run their business.
I’m sure Mr Tobis and Wehland will be by shortly to explain to you their credentials in commercial construction and retail store operations, along with their through educations both in zoning, waste water management and extensive training in traffic studies….
As much as he appreciates them telling him how to run his community, I imagine.
For me the issue is not so much expecting them to do what the community says, but at the very least dealing in good faith and communication with the community, which Walmart has not done in the last two years throughout the entire process.
1. Falsely leaked information that they could not have groceries at the Abingdon location. Has never owned up or addressed that misinformation.
2. Did not approach the community at all about the relocation. Did not respond to requests from the community.
3. Did not come to the CIM meeting last July prepared to directly answer questions or address concerns from the community.
4. Submitted a site plan to P&Z in August that did not respond to community input, did not meet minimum standards, and was deficient in numerous ways (which is why it was subsequently rejected by the DAC) Foremost among the deficiencies, in my opinion, was not accounting for all the proposed uses of the new store which allowed them to decrease the calculated amount of traffic to be mitigated, a “mistake” they were told to correct by DAC.
5. Did not directly respond to questions or suggestions about renovating the current store as described above, which does not display any willingness to work with the community, or that it ever seriously considered the possibility. Their first statement was that it was not possible to do so. When shown it was possible, they have said they just don’t want to do it. Not exactly dealing it straight.
6. Has not, throughout, really made any effort to listen or respond to the community in any meaningful way, and has failed to deliver on promised action and dialogue as indicated above.
To me, this is the most troubling part of the issue. They have mishandled it from the get-go, and allowed the propagation of the belief that they are not community friendly and have no care at all for the concerns of the community they have been a part of for many years.
That’s not a proper way to do business, and in my opinion, whether you love Walmart or hate it, whether you want a store at Plumtree or not, you should be concerned by their actions above.
“1. Falsely leaked information that they could not have groceries at the Abingdon location. Has never owned up or addressed that misinformation.”
It was in the original lease. Here is a copy for your review:
I’d suggest if you’re gonna accuse people of making “false claims” you might want to do some homework.
And for the rest of your rant…
They have answered all the questions people have asked it’s just everyone seems not to like the answer and think asking it over and over again they might get the answer they want.
I’d ask anyone to go to Bing maps as they have the most current aerial view I could find which includes the mini storage and new interchange and figure out how anyone could make that building 50% bigger. Even if you could, which you can’t, grocery is a slim margin business and there is a lot of science that goes into it, you don’t just slap a grocery section in the rear of the store and expect it to work. Add in all the additional plumbing (which is a very big deal) electric and refrigeration grocery’s require that fishing rods and tennis shoes do not. Not to mention additional employees and the facilities they need.
So you all keep asking the same questions but please stop crying about no one answering… they did.
The Money Tree says
You know Bob your response is so rude and really while I might have been rude with you and time or two but Noble has never been confrontational with anyone about this issue. His/her responses and ideas are well reasoned and laid out so agree to disagree but you might try civility once in awhile.
Rude? Hardly, my response is direct. You may not like that but I have no intention of sugar coating things.
Walmart said they can’t enlarge the Abingdon store and clearly they are correct. The fact you don’t like that answer doesn’t mean they will change it, so I’d suggest either you deal with it or continue to expect no additional response from them.
Now here is the rude part. You can flail around on the ground kicking and screaming at the top of your lungs but I doubt they will respond to that either. 🙂
The Money Tree says
Telling someone who clearly has that they need to do “thier homework” and then describing something they wrote as a rant is rude. You’re always rude about this issue in a way that seems a bit odd.
Confrontation is a fact of life on here. Many people get a rush out of it, honestly. I’ve too often fell prey to it myself.
But unfortunately, confrontation makes issues personal, and neither is good for being objective, truthful, productive dialogue and finding solutions.
Belair Bob’s confrontational style doesn’t bother me near as much as him being wrong.
The Money Tree says
That link you provide as evidence that Walmart by contract can’t provide groceries at the existing location has been debunked for weeks if not months. That clause was added as a “noncompete” for Weis which isn’t even in the shopping center any longer.
This is correct. County officials were asked flat out more than once about the restriction and they acknowledged it is not an obstacle, which is exactly the reason the Craig administration even approached Walmart about renovating the current store at all. Walmart officials themselves even conceded that they could work around it.
It was an excuse from the very beginning. Either that, or someone else screwed up in interpreting the restriction.
Walmart has never officially used that argument, but it mysteriously appeared in media reports when news of their plans first broke, so it came from somewhere.
Yea and I’m sure the person in Bentonville, Arkansas who had the other copy of that lease knew the Weiss across the street closed making that clause void…..
The Money Tree says
Oh dear..seriously Bob you think they haven’t done any homework. You think the folks at Walmart; the store manager and regional managers, territory and district managers were not aware that a anchor store in their own complex was closing. I assure you they were aware.
Anchor store in their complex?
You don’t know where the weiss store was do you…..
Lots of people want Wal-Mart just not in their backyards. Well lets face it sometimes it will be in your back yard. Get over it. Move on. Life will continue.
Jeff in Bel Air says
Why is expansion of the existing Abingdon store not an option at this point? They don’t want too! It’s as simple as that. Focus your energy on squeezing as much out of Wal-Mart to better the community and mark the Grand Opening of the new store on your 2014 calendars.
Walmart has not shown any desire to better the community in any way, and at times has directly refused specific requests from the community. A community benefit agreement was proposed, which they flatly rejected in any form. The community, thus far, will get nothing out of Walmart, as you have suggested.
Jeff in Bel Air says
Requests? Benefits Agreement? Why is it that citizens, like yourself, feel the need for Wal-Mart to address your concerns? Laws, procedures, and Approval benchmarks are all in place to assure the proper development of any piece of Property. The specific parcel that Wal-Mart has targeted is properly zoned for this development and should be approved once they meet all of the criteria for Preliminary Plan approval. It is common for the Development of parcels like this to have many Preliminry Plan submissions and revisions. The Engineer for Wal-Mart is not locally based and is probably not that well versed in local submissions and requirements. I also bet, that once the store is open, local PTA’s and Recreation Councils will be soliciting Wal-Mart for donations, sponserships, and pay-backs.
The Money Tree says
Indeed the community can solicit donations, sponsorships and pay-backs now from Walmart – the Walmart that already exists in a much more appropriate location right now this very day. That argument only flys if we didn’t already have a Walmart or that the existing Walmart was remaining open and since that’s not true there is no sum gain here in terms of commerce, convenience, nor presence of Walmart in the community.
Jeff in Bel Air says
Sounds good…So what more do you want Wal-Mart to do? You just don’t want it in your back yard right? Someone please explain to me what Wal-Mart has done to be viewed so negatively? They want to move and build a new, larger, fresher building that is more attractive than the dump they are in now. I would have thought by the reactions to people, that they were filling in Harford Glen and building this new store right nest to Atkisson Reservior!
Citizens like myself feel the need to try to make this community better for all of us.
Local organizations already make requests for donations/support to Walmart at Constant Freindship. In some cases, they appear to be granted, but not in the vast majority of cases. Walmart, generally speaking, does not invest a lot in the local community. There are some fine examples of their support to some things locally in Harford County, but it sorta pales in comparison to much smaller, much less profitable companies in the area. Walmart gives great sums via their charitable arm, but mostly on a national or sometimes regional level. They have essentially admitted that locally, in the communities they actually inhabit, they are not very responsive to local needs. I think they can do better.
As far the comments about the plans, yes it is very common, particularly for a project of this complexity, for it to have some problems in the approval process that ultimately get hammered out. However, the specific example I gave regarding the calculations used to determine the amount of traffic the store would generate that they were asked to re-calculate, does not fit the generalizations you made. The traffic study was done by a very large and well known firm based in Towson I think, who does most of the traffic studies in this area, so they full well know the standards, and I do believe it is not too much to expect that the largest retailer in the world with hundreds of stores and thousands of facilities across the world and more lawyers than Washington DC, might be able to spend a little coin and enough time to make sure they understand the local regulations.
Specifically, if you are not aware, they chose to use a “big box store” designation as the basis for the traffic study figures, however, the “grocery store” designation has significantly more traffic associated with it. Is it an honest mistake to choose the first one when their store clearly has a full grocery store within it and that is their MAIN argument for building the store?
This information was pointed out to them and made public after the CIM in July and Walmart submitted their study anyway, and it was subsequently rejected at DAC. You can look at the summary of the DAC comments that make it clear they didnt’ use the proper designation to reflect all the uses of the store.
Jeff in Bel Air says
Who are you fighting for again? The community? Then I seriously hope you are against the Med-Star facility they are squeezing in down your way! I can only hope there is just as much “opposition” to that as there is Wal-Mart and as much scrutiny over their traffic study (if that plan generates 250 trips a day). Attempted manipulation and tweaking of the code happens in 90 percent of development in Harford and surrounding jurisdictions…it’s the nature of the beast. However, County officials reviewed the plan and rejected the submissions accordingly. Those comments will be addressed by Wal-Mart’s engineers and re-submitted and eventually approved. But you failed to answer my question….you don’t want the Wal-Mart in your back yard right?
In an ideal world, sure I’d be opposed to the Medstar facility, or any other development that adds to the traffic woes and increases population density. However, we live in the “development envelope”, and so we cannot rationally or reasonably oppose ALL development. If you do, your opposition cannot and will not be taken seriously.
Life in the development envelope requires us to pick and choose our battles, and to always ensure that proper procedures are followed. As a matter of fact, apparently the Medstar traffic study has been submitted and I have every intention of looking it over for problems as soon as I get a chance, so thanks for asking.
And you did not ask me about not wanting the Walmart in my backyard, but since you now have, you will be pleased to know it would not be. In fact, I live closer to Constant Friendship than Plumtree. NIMBY has never been a reason for my problems with Walmart’s plans.
It has been apparent during this whole process that WalMart is not interested in what the citizens of Bel Air have to say. They want to shove their store down our throats regardless of the impact it has on our community. If people think that a WalMart will just affect those that live close to the store they are wrong. It will affect everyone driving on 924, 24, Plumtree Road and Bel Air South Parkway.
Great letter. It tells it like it is.
The Money Tree says
Keep up the pressure. Walmart relies on folks eventually giving up resistance. If this letter is anywhere near the truth it certainly makes clear Walmart’s lack of care or concern; nor any attempt at negotiating as a good and responsible neighbor.
The headline quote is a rather self serving statement by the author.
Look you know you and all your “peeps” will be at that walmart in a matter of a couple of months once its built. And give it up! This is all for show! Walmart can legally build on the land that they want. Just leave them alone.
The Money Tree says
Not without the proper permits they can’t and not without complying satisfactorily with mitigating traffic concerns. You buy a lot you can’t build anything you want and you must submit your plan to allow for permits. It’s no different here – difference is you and I have to roll over because we lack the ability to fund an endless stream of legal issues, but Walmart has lawyers and can outspend and outlast any attempts to stall this thing made by the county. Question is really how far Walmart chooses to go in terms of ruining the good will of he community; the same community I assume they want shopping there. Me and my “peeps” won’t be shopping at Walmart regardless, but they’ll lose customers and in fact might be boycotted if the community can stick together and understand the power they when they vote with their wallets and shop elsewhere.
Okay so after some modifications Walmart will ultimately get the necessary permits and the store will still be built. And what will you have really accomplished? Your boycott (if it materializes at all) will mean nothing to Walmart as most of their customers will not be coming from the immediate surrounding neighborhood. In very short order people will be flocking to the store. I am surprised at your stance on this issue. You usually complain about big government, taxes and out of control government spending but it this case are trying to stand in the way of free enterprise and capitalism.
The Money Tree says
Free markets and capitalism are only successful when a healthy and vibrant plethera of businesses abounds. Competition drives quality and price. Concentrating too much in the hands of only a few merchants (in this case one) only means we lose local control and local preferences, not to mention the ease with which the federal government can foist additional control over the markets when they only need negotiate with one eager and willing partner – whether it’s Walmart or GM too big to fail means too big.
Some good points but I think NIMBY may be a major part of your opposition to Walmart.
So you think the conentration of a resource in the hands of a few is bad? Well Wal-Mart’s relocation is not doing that. The same buisnesses will have the same ability to compete. Looking at the satilite images I do not see how wallmart can exand without either going up (which means a store closing) or knocking down the storage place which is a viable buisness.
The Money Tree says
It’s not in my back yard…not within miles of where I live, but I do care about my community.
The Money Tree says
Most amusing that someone out there gives me a thumbs down for this comment. Not sure what this person objects to either that I don’t live near the Walmart or that I care about my community…little bit of knee jerk there ya think?
I live several miles away too. I drive by the site and appreciate the people riding bikes and running and walking their dogs. Progress is not megastores and more traffic lanes – that is an antiquated view. Enhancing the walkability of the area will benefit the community for years to come. That is true progress. Change your vision for the site to development that respects the type of community that exists there – healthy and vibrant.
Are you suggesting we go back to horse drawn buggies straw hats, beards for the married men and the women barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen?
Your definition of progress and the majorities may not be as aligned as you think.
Oh dear, Peggysue, you are stuck in the past. Get outside and get some exercise with people in the 21st century.
SEA if that is what you want on the site….I suggest you ante up and kick in. Buy the sight and than I am sure your neighbors will support that. Short of that accept that times they are a changin’
I cannot speak for MoneyTree, but opposing big government, over taxing, and reckless spending are not mutually exclusive to an unfettered and possibly destructive free market. We haven’t had pure capitalism for over 100 years, and for good reason– the same reason we don’t have pure democracy or monarchy– because people are inherently corrupting and corrosive in any system.
The key, the most critical element, in a democratic (republic if you prefer) form of government with a capitalist economy is striking the balance between letting the genius of free people thrive, and in binding the evil genius of people with too much freedom.
Continuously striving for that balance is at the heart of the American Experiment. I think too often too many people think that one way or the other is the right way, when the right way is somewhere in the middle. That’s how the system was intended to work from the beginning.
K, you pointed out a problem here, that even though the hosting community does not support Walmart moving into it, it… “…will mean nothing to Walmart as most of their customers will not be coming from the immediate surrounding neighborhood.” Thank you for confirming to us that Walmart doesn’t care about the people in Harford County, only the $$$.
$$$ is the essence of all business not just Walmart. Without the desire for profit this there is no reason nor ability for a business to exist.
I stopped shopping Walmart about a year ago. The quality of their merchandise continually declines. I really don’t miss it and it hasn’t effected my wallet!
The quality of service and products is declining all over the place, but Walmart is certainly an industry leader in this regard.
Great prices are wonderful, we all love them. But a great price on a bad product is still a bad buy, generally speaking.
Thanks for the update Dagger! Hopefully Walmart will be responsive to Mr Wehland. I really wish they would just build a Sam’s Club in the new location and expand the Constant Friendship location.
Cindy Mumby says
As of this morning, the Harford County Department of Planning & Zoning had not received a revised traffic study (TIA) for this project. I asked an official there whether he was surprised that it had taken this long and he said no, given the number of issues that Wal-Mart was asked to address.
Mr. Wehland, the research you’ve done on this topic is to be commended; please let us know if you actually receive a response. I’ll be anxious to look at their traffic study – I already avoid Route 24 like the plague, imagine the congestion we’ll experience with a new Walmart adding 10,000 more cars to the mix…
Steve Jacobs says
Wow, 10k more cars! This is like “end of the world” stuff right here in in Harford County. All you Nimbys want to be the last one to move here!
You all should have had just a bit more fore thought before buying a house in the area. I moved up here 30 years ago and still am looking over a cornfield and woods that can never be built upon. Should have done your homework Nimbys, ’cause now you be livin’ in the ghetto yo!
Just to clarify, it is technically 10k more “trips” not 10k more cars, though it really doesn’t matter because in terms of traffic systems ability to handle traffic volumes, there’s no difference. A traffic light doesn’t care if a car is coming or going.
I do want to point out though that the major intersections around the proposed store handle around 20k-40k cars (yes, cars) per day, along MD24 and 924. That is a minimum increase in traffic of 25% (likely more) on those roads from just this one project. That is also based on Walmart’s original figure of 10k cars, which is in question because their traffic study did not use the right calculations.
And you are right Mr. Jacobs, too many people don’t pay enough attention to zoning and development either before or during their home ownership, and to their own peril. You are quite correct that people have little room to complain on that point.
AGAIN LEARN TO READ!!!!! IT IS 10,000 MORE TRIPS!!!!! NOT CARS!!!!!! YOU ARE DOUBLING THE AMOUNT OF CUSTOMERS. IT IS ALSO NOT AN EVERYDAY OCCURENCE!!!!!
bam bam digalow says
People should shove their big nose up their own asses at this point. I’m sure it sucks to live in the upcoming Edgewood 2, but hey, you voluntarily bought your residence that you at one point had to drive through that area before you bought gawking at all the constant building.
Who’s to blame? Oh I know, blame your realtors for telling you some trumped up bullshit about where tou live and believeing it.
I say no to Walmart and yes to a Trader Joes!
You don’t get to vote on Walmart vs Trader Joe’s.
If Trader Joe’s wanted to compete with Walmart
for the location they should have done so.
This properly zoned privately-owned commercial
The public has no choice whether the business is
Walmart, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods or Target.
The public always has choice in where they shop.