Wal-Mart on Friday submitted revised plans to county officials for a proposed Bel Air Supercenter, signifying the company’s intention to build the store despite public protests over the location. The company’s revised plans must be reviewed by the Harford County Department of Planning and Zoning for compliance with regulatory requirements before the Supercenter can be built as proposed near the intersection of Plumtree Rd. and MD Route 924. The proposed store site is zoned as a general business district.
Wal-Mart’s move follows an October Development Advisory Committee (DAC) meeting where county officials outlined deficiencies in the company’s original plans, including the site plan, forest conservation plan, landscaping plan, and traffic impact analysis. It is not unusual for a development proposal to undergo revisions prior to receiving final approval.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the company had submitted a revised preliminary plan, site plan, landscape plan and traffic impact analysis. The revised plans have been posted on the county Web site and can be found here.
Pete Gutwald, county director of planning and zoning, said Tuesday that the revised plans had not yet been reviewed, a process that he said would take months at best and could require additional information from the company as the review unfolds. He said it was too soon to identify the major changes from the original plans, although he noted an increase in the store size, which was originally proposed at 186,000 sq.ft. and revised to nearly 190,000 sq.ft.
Wal-Mart first revealed plans to close its Abingdon store and build a new Bel Air Supercenter at a July community input meeting, which was required by the county as part of the development review process. The meeting drew more than 800 angry residents who said that the new store would snarl traffic in an already congested area and otherwise diminish the quality of life for nearby residents.
Since then, opponents have pressured elected officials to stop the project, leading to a request from the Harford County Council to the State Highway Administration to deny access to the store from MD Route 924 because of concerns about public safety. In order to review the council’s request, SHA asked Wal-Mart to submit a revised traffic impact analysis without the planned access to the site at MD 924 and Bright Oaks Drive.
Opponents have also staged roadside rallies near the proposed store site in recent months. On Saturday, protesters stood along Constant Friendship Blvd. near the Abingdon Wal-Mart, urging the company to expand at that location rather than move to Bel Air.
Bill Wertz, Wal-Mart’s community and media relations director for the eastern division, told The Dagger in an October interview that the company appreciated community input, but the Supercenter would not fit at the Abingdon location due to constraints at the site. Countering the protests, he said that the Bel Air Supercenter would bring area consumers a beautiful new store with a greater assortment of merchandise at low prices, including fresh produce and a garden center. Increased tax revenue and 100 new jobs would also come to the county as a result, Wertz said.
Below are the overall “Results, Recommendations, and Conclusions” from the revised traffic impact analysis: