With Potential Legislative Hurdle Cleared, Wal-Mart Continues Quest for New Bel Air Supercenter Store Approval

Proposed legislation that might have stalled development of the Bel Air Wal-Mart, failed for lack of a second at a Harford County Council legislative session held Tuesday.

County Council Bill No. 13-16 set forth special development requirements for stores 75,000 sq. ft. or larger, and subjected them to final approval by the Council, acting as the Board of Appeals. As such, passage of the bill might have slowed development of the Bel Air Wal-Mart, and allowed the County Council to apply certain conditions or reject vital aspects of the proposed store.

Supporters of Bill No. 13-16 hoped that it would thwart Wal-Mart’s plans to build a Bel Air Supercenter, which they said would create safety hazards and diminish the quality of life in the area. At the bill hearing Tuesday, the bill’s supporters also said that the county needed a way to rein in future big box development when it would overburden nearby infrastructure.

The bill’s opponents said at the hearing that it was anti-business, and it unfairly targeted Wal-Mart. Attorney Bob Lynch added, “You can’t invest in property if the rules suddenly change.” Lynch represents the Haron Dahan Foundation, which is poised to sell its Bel Air property at Plumtree Rd. and MD Rt. 924 to Wal-Mart for the development.

Adding to the controversy, it was unclear from the outset whether Bill No. 13-16 would apply to the Bel Air store, which is currently in the approval pipeline under existing law.

The bill’s lead sponsor, Councilman James “Capt’n Jim” McMahan said that the law would not affect the land where the project is proposed, but would prevent what he called “outlandish development” at other sites in the future.

However, Pete Gutwald, county director of planning and zoning, said that the law would apply to Wal-Mart if their site plan was not approved by his department before the new law took effect.

Wal-Mart officials issued a public statement saying they were looking at the law to see if it was applicable, but nonetheless decried what they called “arbitrary hurdles for development.”

Looking to remove what she called “ambiguity” in the bill, Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti introduced an amendment Tuesday prior to the bill’s failure, exempting projects, such as the Bel Air Wal-Mart, that had applied for county approval prior to the bill’s effective date. The amendment was co-sponsored by Councilman Dick Slutzky and it passed by a 5 to 2 vote, with Council President Billy Boniface and Councilman McMahan voting against.

Finally, Councilman McMahan made a motion to approve the bill as amended, which was met with silence from his fellow council members. Thus, the bill failed for lack of a second, leaving Wal-Mart to continue its quest for approval under existing law from the county department of planning and zoning.

On that score: Wal-Mart submitted a revised traffic study on Monday. A copy of the study can be found here: http://www.harfordcountymd.gov/PlanningZoning/Download/2023-1262.pdf

Comments

  1. says

    Bel Air is making all of the same mistakes as Towson. Congestion, lack of parking, terrible traffic problems, too much development in a small area, etc. It’s getting worse with every new business. Just look at the mega center going up around Wegman’s & JC Penney.

    Well-loved. Thumb up 10 Thumb down 3
    • Kharn says

      Harford is playing catch-up on infrastructure, when they should have kicked it into high gear as soon as APG was confirmed to receive the thousands of jobs that arrived.
      There is no disputing that BRAC and urban flight are causing Harford to expand at a very fast pace. That expansion means new facilities, new roads, etc, must be built quickly to accomodate the new residents, who are mainly concentrated inside the development envelope.

      Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
      • The Money Tree says

        Fact is Brac did not and will not bring in nearly as many new residents as they expected, and the population increases in Harford are expected to flatten or at least significantly slow. Projections out for the next 10 years begin to show a decrease in school populations in all age groups. The idea that we need new roads, stores and neighborhoods only represents the wishlist and collusion between county leadership and developers.

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3
  2. Reggie says

    VERY interesting how a bill that seemed to have early support dies in such a manner. I guess Walmart and their deep pockets got the last word after all.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 4
    • Cdev says

      Perhaps the point was to stop Wal-mart and the ammendment disinterested the parties.

      Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1
      • noble says

        Too bad, if true. I think it’s a good bill regardless of the Walmart project. It should have passed. Hopefully it will be proposed again.

        Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1
        • Cdev says

          I think if the real intent was to allow closer scrutiny of large developments than it was a good bill. I think that was the publiclly stated reason but the real reason was to stop this Wal-Mart. The real way would have been for citizens to avail themselves of zoning hearings. The neighbors wanted it rezoned this way and now they are shocked when it gets used for its zoned purpose.

          Well-loved. Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0
  3. Bel Air Fed says

    Be careful what you ask for, you often get it. All those years ago Harford’s leaders longed to be put on the map as a desired place to call home by consumers and companies. It was almost as if it was a shameful thing to be a rural, “backward” place. Farms, not many people, restaurants or shops, how boring. Fast forward 30 years – here we are – high taxed, crowded, so urbane.

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
  4. BelairBob says

    Well people, now you have the name of who owns the property and is trying to sell it.

    Want to stop Walmart? Stop the sale, perhaps the Haron Dahan foundation could turn it into a lovely park.

    Where is Steve and his protesters….

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 5
    • what the hel, man? says

      Land sales cannot be stopped and are not up for public opinion, people missed the bus on the zoning, which is public.

      Now its up to tenant, purchaser, and final approval of the county. It’s a done deal, broski.

      Well-loved. Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1
    • Steve Jacobs says

      Belair Bob has a point. The Dahans are like a 100 years old, what is their incentive for selling to Wally World…..greed and self-interest. The Dahans should turn it into a park with a monument to their goodness….even could get buried there with an eternal flame or something.

      Go picket in front of their house.

      Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6
      • Aberdeen parent says

        Actually, Hal Dahan died about 2 months ago. His son Nick now runs the enterprise. They don’t live in Harford County, and don’t care about the traffic issues we will have to face with Walmart on that property.

        Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2
  5. Skip Panowitz says

    Well, it is clear that the majority of the Harford County Council members not only are not concerned about those living in Bel Air South, where none of the Council members live, but also in their own districts. This type project can, and likely will, be presented again in some other part of the County with likely similiar issues because of their decision to do nothing. The B3 and other zoning codes need to be revised and clarified. Bill 13-16 was a major step in that direction. This was a tough situation, with difficult decisions involved, and the majority of the Council took the easy, “safe” road and did nothing. Why not second the motion presented by Mr. McMahan, especially since the bill had been amended to effectively protect Walmart from being subject to it’s provisions? Then discuss it and vote against if not satisfied with it’s content? I do not understand. Hopefully some member of the Council will step up to explain why the bill was left to die. It was clear at the meeting on Tuesday that there was overwhelming support for the bill from the community with well presented reasons why it should be passed. I was surprised that the Chamber of Commerce took the position to oppose it. Isn’t a major part of their mission to protect small and medium size businesses the likes of which will be so negatively impacted if this project is ultimately approved? I can sum up my feelings, and those of thousands of residents in Bel Air South, and elsewhere in the County, with two words. Disappointment and betrayed. That is how we feel we were treated with the Council’s decision Tuesday night.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 5
    • Colleen says

      I’m now deadset on moving out of Harford County where I will see Walmart in my backyard and back to Baltimore County. It was less congested in Perry Hall than it is in Bel Air. Home sweet home. Just hope I can sell my house.

      Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2
  6. what the hel, man? says

    So if you change the rules in the middle of the game…..

    I suppose 16 council members weighed in on legal ramifications.

    Who do you blame? Those looking to avoid wal marts legal counsel, or those who would want Harford county to owe wal mart money?

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1
    • Birdman02 says

      The point is, Walmart was essentially off the table by the time the bill was presented for a vote. The codes need to be clarified and strengthened. This was an opportunity to keep this type debacle from happening in the future. And the Council let it die.

      Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1
      • Cdev says

        I suspect that was because the clear intent was to stop Wal-Mart. The only one honest about that was Gutherie. The rest tried to pretend to be pretend it wasn’t. If this was going to be a Whole Foods they would not have done this.

        Well-loved. Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0
        • SEA says

          Whole Foods would be a positive step in development. When they move into a community they encourage improvement in health and fitness by creating attractive outdoor spaces with bike racks, pedestrian areas, attractive plantings, and offer healthy foods. They promote healthy lifestyles and a healthy community.
          What does Walmart promote? Their own interests: $$$. In the wake they offer low low prices, low low wages, obesity, cheaply made products, and lots of pavement.
          Please please, Haron Dahan Foundation: don’t sell this property to Walmart.

          Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2
          • Cdev says

            I think if the real intent was to allow closer scrutiny of large developments than it was a good bill. I think that was the publiclly stated reason but the real reason was to stop this Wal-Mart. The real way would have been for citizens to avail themselves of zoning hearings. The neighbors wanted it rezoned this way and now they are shocked when it gets used for its zoned purpose.

            Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
          • BelairBob says

            Which is why walmart wants to get bigger and whole foods has zero interest in harford county. Take a look around, the average hazard county resident ain’t a whole food shopper.

            Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1
          • Cdev says

            Sorry somehow it double posted. That said you illistrate that this is all about hating Wal-mart and not about the stated reasons.

            Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
          • Mike Welsh says

            BelairBob,

            Ya think that the “average” shopper in Baltimore is a whole food shopper? Baltimore has two stores.

            Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
          • Steve Jacobs says

            Yea, well that ain’t gonna happen here. I love Whole Foods, but they are not going to move into Harford County.

            Bel Air is evolving into Essex North, all we need now is check cashing stores. A large population of obese people who wouldn’t spend a penny more for organic food live in Harford County.

            Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
          • BelairBob says

            Yes the average shopper in the hoods Whole foods is located are very upscale. Bright oaks ain’t exactly a roland park, ruxton or mt Washington… Heck I bet the Dahans house keeper shops at Whole foods….

            Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1
          • Mike Welsh says

            Thanks for acknowledging that the average shopper in Baltimore is not shopping at Whole Foods. Yes, you would need to be “upscale” (your word) to be an average Whole Foods shopper. However, upscale in no way describes the average person who lives in Baltimore, or Harford County.

            Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
        • Colleen says

          I bet to differ. I think Whole Foods would be a good choice. Not everyone in this area is obese and cheap. I shop at Wegmans BECAUSE they have organic foods and healthy choices. Wegmans is packed every single weekend. I’d like to see Walmart compete. They don’t stand a chance. Wegmans’ prices are competitive and they have more choices. They think they will compete with Wegmans in Constant Friendship? They are competing just as much in Bel Air. I live in Bright Oaks and I will not set foot inside that new store. In fact, I hope I can move out before it’s built. But I will still shop at Wegmans no matter where I move to. Love it!

          Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2
          • Colleen says

            But don’t get me wrong, I would not want Wegmans in my backyard either. Big box stores belong in commercial areas, not in residential areas with schools nearby. Period. I don’t care what store it is. That’s not what I want to look at from deck either.

            Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3
          • Cdev says

            Colleen this is a commercial area….It is zoned as such. It was changed from residential at the bequest of those residents in the area. The many other neighboring buisnesses are all commercial. You have several medicaal offices, a McDonalds and gas stations…..Do you somehow think those are residential?

            Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
  7. John says

    Many years ago a mall was planned for that tract of land at 24 near I-95. The locals succeeded in defeating that idea via referendum. No mall now just a BJ’s, a Lowes,, a multiplex, some banks, some aeteries and a Wal-Mart, . Now a new Wal-mart closer to Bal Air. Save your money and your breath, folks. As long as big money is close to politics, big money will win every time.

    Well-loved. Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0
    • Marcus says

      As was illustrated by this non-vote! Good point. Big money is the key. I wonder if there were promised “donations” to campaigns for future office runs?

      Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1
  8. ALEX R says

    Interesting that it failed for lack of a second. To me that means that no one was even interested enough in it being discussed to take one step.

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
  9. Screwed Big Time says

    Looks like the residents near area near the proposed Walmart are screwed! 6 lanes of traffic on Rte. 924 near the proposed Walmart! Really! Wow! Vote the politicians out!

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1
    • The Money Tree says

      I suggest boycott. There won’t be traffic if we don’t go. The tail doesn’t wag the dog…

      Well-loved. Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1
      • O says

        Build it and they will come. I suspect that most people will forget about this protest in short order and the Walmart parking lot will be full of shoppers. People from other parts of the county will not care about your concerns over traffic, noise, etc. A shoppers’ inconvenience will be short-lived, just long enough to get into the store parking lot and out.

        Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
        • Colleen says

          Some of us that look at it every day will not forget. I have not shopped at Walmart since summer and I never will again. I used to go to Constant Friendship or Fallston Walmart every week.

          Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
        • The Money Tree says

          I’m not sure that’s true. A sustained and deliberate boycott takes a bit of work but it can certainly be done. All it would take would be a 5% reduction in shoppers and it becomes a nonsustainable store. That’s the problem with being the low cost leader – you need volume and without it you die and that makes you more vulnerable to boycott. Sadly it’ll still leave a big scar on that lot – a treeless, hideous slab of asphalt but we can shut them down and that would make this Harford County resident very, very happy.

          Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
          • Brian says

            Ok so after you loose the fight and the store gets built you will be more than happy to look at an empty building and parking lot if a boycott is successful? Some how I think there is a big lie being told here. You will be back on here crying how all these jobs are gone and what an eyesore it is.

            Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
    • Colleen says

      6 lanes a few houses away is not where I want to be. It is noisy enough as it is. Can’t imagine the construction mess either. More traffic lights won’t solve the problem either. There’s going to be gridlock at the lights and a bottleneck where the 6 lanes end. And there’s only one way to get to my neighborhood. Route 924 is already awful during rush hour.

      Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
      • Cdev says

        Perhaps your complaint should be with the people who use 924 to drive from Bel Air to Abingdon and not 24. Beside I believe it is already 4-5 lanes there anyway.

        Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
        • Abelairmom says

          In that area, there are turn lanes around the intersections. But there is only a single through lane in both directions at that point.

          Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
          • Cdev says

            Well The opponets have claimed that the current location is better because it is a 9 lane road at that point despite the fact that it really on has one through lane in each direction. The many turn lanes last for only a few hundred feet.

            Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  10. says

    Hello everyone, I’ve been speaking out against the Belair Super Walmart because it hurts small business and that it would be good for them to stay in Abingdon where they are closer to the citizens in my district; route 95 , 24 are better able to handle the traffic, not rt.924. I am not happy that the bill died. Thanks, Delegate Glen Glass, 443-360-8607

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3
  11. KM says

    Haron Dahan Foundation Inc
    2231 CONOWINGO RD
    BEL AIR, MD 21015-1436

    Hey Steve, let’s take our signs to this address.

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1
  12. BW says

    Hopefully the building process will get started soon. I am looking forward to the new and expanded Walmart so that I can see more of our wonderful senior citizens afforded the opportunity to work and enjoy life. Thank you Walmart for all you do and for creating an affordable place to shop. The sooner they get out of their existing location the easier it will be to shop in the new location with much better traffic control to get in and out of the parking lot. The existing industrial complex with only one way in and out combined with a terrible new intersection have made Constant friendship one of the worst places with regard to traffic. The new location will provide much needed access and convenience. Thank you!

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 4 Thumb down 7
    • says

      Yeah, let’s all celebrate the great WalMart. Just in Florida alone. they have over 1,200 employees on multiple public assistance programs because they can’t afford to live on a WalMart salary – Medicaid, Food Stamps, and something called Floiraid. They are costing the tax payers so much money it’s ridiculous. I will never walk through the doors of a WalMart.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3
      • bam bam jigalow says

        I guess no other business in Harford county pays their employees minimum wage.

        Get over it, its a done deal. Find something else to do.

        Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1
      • BelairBob says

        Joe- start your own business to put Wal mart out of business and you can personally free those slave workers and pay them all more money.

        And don’t forget all the other retail stores with minimum wage employees.
        Target
        home depot
        hh gregg
        best buy
        pet smart
        Lowes
        Kohls
        McDonalds
        Wendys
        WAWA
        Royal Farm
        Burgerking

        Go Gettum….

        Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
        • Abingdonmom says

          My son has been working at Lowes since high school he is now in college, and I can tell you he does not make minimum wage, plus he gets vacation and benefits as a part time employee. I have worked in retail for decades and am so tired of retail workers being disparaged, most retail workers want to work part time and enjoy the flexibility.

          Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
    • KM says

      You have to be kidding. I guess you don’t live in the area of the proposed new store. You think the Abingdon site is the “worst” for traffic, check out our area. Trust me, the new location will not provide “much needed access”. Just more traffic headaches, accidents, etc. etc. And don’t forget, PMMHS is a walking school for many of our children. Walmart is not for us, it is for Walmart. The all mighty dollar is all they think of.

      Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2
  13. Marcus says

    Just wait for the first instance in December, when Walmart Holiday traffic is backed up to Ring Factory Road….and Patterson Mill High has just dismissed…and a fire engine from the new substation needs to quickly navigate that horrific mess.

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2
      • Marcus says

        Well, I am sure that if the slow response was to a fire at your home….and it burnt to the ground, then you would be blaming the Walmart and questioning how in the world the county would have let it be built there.

        The point is that the traffic is already ubearable at times and the “quick fixes” proposed by Walmart will do nothing to alleviate traffic congestion and woe.

        But hey…keep your head in the sand. It’s a free country.

        Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3
        • bam bam jigalow says

          Hey dipshit, you know there are more than 1 fire companies in this county, along with more than1 road?

          Got tighten your tin foil hat conspiracy gloom and doom somewhere else, every major populated city in this country has no problem dealing with extreme congestion during emergency response.

          HERP DERP

          Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2
          • Marcus says

            Oh, how cute. Name calling by the guy who bastardized a wrestler from the 80s. That says a lot. Still living in your mom’s basement? Probably.

            I will type slowly so that you can get my point….major cities have many firehouses. Bel Air has 2. Major cities have many arteries and roads to access emergencies. Bel Air has 2, both of which will be congested when the Walmart is built.

            Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2
          • Don Galmer says

            So? Abingdon, Fallston are routinely helping out in that area all the time.

            Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
          • Marcus says

            Usually, yes. My concern is, for those who read my post, is that on those instances where Bel Air is a log-jam (which it has already been during the holidays without the Walmart), that response times will be slowed. Maybe you are not familiar with the fact that these are voluntarily staffed fire stations. Most, if not all, firemen will have to fight the traffic just to get to the stations, much less the incident. And Abingdon and Fallston will have similar issues getting into town.

            Now, if they expand 924 by 2 lanes each way, 24 by an additional lane, and Plumtree Road and Bel AIr South Parkway by additional lanes, then my point is no longer valid. But do you really think that they will?

            Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3
          • Cdev says

            Marcus funny you say that……I believe that is what Wal-Mart proposes doing except for 24.

            Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
          • Ol' Timer says

            Joseph, you hit the nail on the head there. This whole thread is an example of why our nation is in the condition that it is in. We have lost the ability to engage in civil discourse. Not so long ago, you would hear an opposing viewpoint and respectfully disagree. Now, you have to resort to calling someone a “dipshit” or making comments about living in a basement in order to validate your point – which in my view, invalidates your point. Take away the immaturity, I find that both Bam Bam and Marcus have good points. I think Marcus may be a little “doom and gloom” with his predictions, but traffic is a major concern. I would be worried about a medical emergency where every minute counted if 924 becomes a parking lot. Do I think we will get to that point? I hope not. I hope Cdev is right and Walmart takes care of the roadways. However, I thought Walmart only wanted to address roadways on surfaces that actually touched their property….is that incorrect?

            In the future, let’s try to debate in civil tones. We are, after all, all in this boat together. God Bless!

            Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
          • BelairBob says

            If a real medical emergency like say a major heart attack, is a big concern I’d suggest moving out of Harford county all together unless you live next door to a volunteer fire dept or a paramedic you pretty much aren’t going to make it.

            Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
    • Marcus says

      Well Cdev, proposing and doing are two separate entities. However they follow through, then my fears will be alleviated. I will believe it when I see it.

      Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
      • Cdev says

        They don’t have a choice if it is a condition of the approval. They Wal-Mart has to fund the project. The part people don’t get is they have to fund a reasonable area around Wal-Mart not all the existing problems with 924 which already exist before Wal-Mart!

        Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  14. noble says

    The detailed account of the proposed “improvements” Walmart plans to do to what roads is listed in the traffic impact study, and is selectively published in extract by the Dagger elsewhere.
    Traffic was studied from Singer to Bel Air Road and improvements are to be done at all of the adjoining intersections as well as Wheel Rd. All paid for 100% by Walmart.

    I say “improvements” because while they will be making changes to roads and intersections, they are only required to “mitigate” the impact of their development, which means there would really be no real world “improvement’ in the traffic conditions. As I have noted before, many times there are real improvements in traffic flow immediately afterward, but they are often offset rather quickly as foot traffic increases and traffic patterns adjust.

    At best, things will stay as bad as they are. But that is not Walmart’s problem. What happens after that, isn’t their problem either– but it will be ours, and they will be a contributing factor in it, and at some point it’s very likely the County/State will be on the hook for future upgrades to handle the flow.

    More importantly, some of the design choices and “improvements” they have proposed are pretty clearly not beneficial– at least, not as beneficial to us as they are to Walmart. Inserting new traffic signals very close to existing ones and the location of the “main” entrance and exit are good for keeping their land costs, landscaping, and internal road constructions costs down, but they are bad for traffic on the public roads. Low build prices for Walmart, high costs to us.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0