Proposed Bel Air Wal-Mart Denied Access to Route 924; State Highway Administration Also Denies Bright Oaks Traffic Signal

The State Highway Administration has denied Wal-Mart’s requested access on MD 924 for the main entrance to its proposed Supercenter in Bel Air, saying the access would not benefit the overall roadway network and citing “ample opportunity” for access via county roads. Community opposition to the store has focused on concerns about traffic congestion in the area.

Wal-Mart sought access to state road MD 924 and permission to install a new traffic signal at the intersection with Bright Oaks Drive, which SHA also denied. The decision from SHA is final and cannot be appealed, SHA spokesman Charlie Gischlar said in an email Tuesday.

Outlining the SHA decision in a September 30th letter to the Harford County Department of Planning & Zoning, SHA division Chief Stephen D. Foster wrote:

“The SHA reviewed [sic] determined that a MD 924 access would not be granted for the development. The basis for the decision is that the County roadways provide ample opportunity for access to the local roadway network with appropriate roadway improvements on the County and State roadways to mitigate development-generated traffic impacts. While the developer may desire an access on MD 924 to improve marketability, the addition of a MD 924 access does not provide a substantial transportation benefit to the overall roadway network.”

The SHA letter goes on to question whether the necessary roadway improvements proposed by Wal-Mart are feasible, requesting more detailed engineering plans from the company, and suggesting that the development may have to be modified:

“If any improvements are not feasible, the SHA may request that the County require the developer to revise the roadway improvements to address the traffic impacts and/or, if necessary, modify the development to reduce traffic impacts.”

In response to questions from The Dagger, Wal-Mart spokesperson Amanda Henneberg issued the following statement indicating that the SHA decision would not derail plans to build the super store:

“We have a strong interest in making sure that traffic flows smoothly and it’s convenient for customers to shop with us. We work closely with communities to ensure that visiting our store is as easy as possible. The State Highway Administration’s analysis provided that with traffic improvements that will be the case for our store in Bel Air. We look forward to providing the community with even more convenient shopping options that include both affordable food and a wide assortment of general merchandise.”

Asked specifically whether Wal-Mart was dropping its request for access to MD 924 and now plans site access only from county roads Blue Spruce Drive and Plumtree Road, Henneberg responded:

“That determination hasn’t been made at this time, and we are still working with the County and the State to provide the best and safest access for our customers.”

Controversy has surrounded the proposed Bel Air development since Wal-Mart first announced plans to close its Abingdon store and build a Supercenter on land zoned for business along MD 924 south of Plumtree Road. The Supercenter is proposed to include an automotive center, pharmacy with drive-thru, groceries (with a separate market entrance) and garden center.

Hundreds of area residents have opposed the new store, with roadside rallies and pleas to government officials, arguing that the added traffic would overload already congested roadways.

Citing public safety, the Harford County Council passed a non-binding resolution last October 2nd calling on SHA to deny access to the store site from MD 924.

Dated one year later almost to the day, the September 30th SHA letter appears below:


    • Big Donkey, LLC says


      Does it matter? Something will be built there that covers that untouched big clump of trees, whether its wal mart, 20 shops in a strip mall, or by somehow by miracle rezoned into residential, section 8s, trailer park, or something like another fancy gigantic medical facility.

      It’s coming, either accept those trees will be timbered for a parking lot or move.

      Speaking of move, who voluntarily moves to an area like that in the past 15 years and expects every piece or large property to remain unused? People moved to the “hot spot” location, accept the fact its going to continue to grow.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 15 Thumb down 17
  1. Bel Air Bobb says

    Oh My….. SHA says walmart has “Ample Opportunity” for access from county roads.

    Hello….. Walmart!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Well-loved. Thumb up 12 Thumb down 7
  2. says

    “That determination hasn’t been made at this time, and we are still working with the County and the State to provide the best and safest access for our customers.” That would be in Constant Friendship Amanda Henneberg.

    Well-loved. Thumb up 14 Thumb down 9
  3. Minute Man says

    Since day one, thousands of rational minds concerned about the welfare of their community have said, “It’s the wrong place for a Wal-Mart”. Looking on Google Earth and comparing the road system and proximity of schools and residents that exist at Plumtree to the 45 Wal-Marts in MD, it is plain to see that a Plumtree store would be the most inappropriately placed store in the state. Sam Walton said they would never change the culture of a community without the consent of the community. Well the community has spoken and they are opposed. The SHA has denied access from 924. Wal-Marts philosophy is polar to that of its founding father, so it is not surprising that their response to denied access would be that their plans will not be derailed. Kmart, spell check would have been nice but isn’t it a bit mindless to zoom in on a miss spelling when the SHA letter contains an abundance of significant information.

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    • Dog, the Bounty Hunter says

      Yo….Minute Man, you claim that “the community has spoken and they are opposed”. While that may be true, is is also misinformation. Many folks approve of the proposed Walmart relocation, but just aren’t as vociferous about expressing their opinions (it’s human nature 101). You know the saying….”the squeaky wheel gets the grease”….well, you squeakers have been real noisy! :)

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      • d says

        And many is defined as 10. That is the number of “Yes Bel Air Walmart” signs you see around Harford Cty.

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  4. working dad in bel air says

    I have to laugh, Minute Man talking about how Walmart would change the culture of the community and how the community has spoken in opposition. If Minute Man lives in that area, his home was a pile of cow poop when I was a kid. Now it’s houses, paved roads, shopping malls, tailpipe exhaust, and lines of cars at all times of day and night. I think the residents of that area ought to come to the realization that many of us old timers had to come to terms with long ago – change happens and money talks. The development envelope sold out central Harford to the highest bidders long ago. So I and probably “thousands” of other Bel Air area residents now say live and let live – Welcome Wal-Mart.

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  5. Bel Air Bob says

    It is also interesting to note on page 3 item #6, SHA is going to turn 924 into a 6 lane road, walmart or not.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 10
  6. Ren, the big goat says

    What’s the deal with the “near a school debate”? Our neighbor county Wal Mart built literally across the street from an expensive private school that we all know did not effect “quality of life.”

    Trumped up faux hysteria.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 11 Thumb down 17
    • d says

      That is clearly not the same traffic situation. A small private school on a multilane road that carries far less traffic with a Walmart than 924 does without a SuperWalmart per MD SHA. Also, it is not a 190,000 sq ft store in Cecil Cty built in a residential area. Read up on the current traffic problems on Tollgate Road that Emmorton Elementary is having (just published in Sun and Aegis) and add 10,000 to 12,000 more cars a day going by and that it what you will have. Not just traffic but gridlock.

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  7. noble says

    Well so much for all the constant griping about NIMBY and sour grapes, because it turns out, again, that Walmart’s plans for this location have been rejected. And not some minor detail about landscaping or permitting, but a major point of the site design: the access to 924 and a light at Bright Oaks. Walmart officials, and the traffic engineers they hired, when asked directly about eliminating that entrance said that they had to have that access to complete the project.

    For over a year since they first published the initial proposal I have been saying it would be idiotic to put another traffic signal at Bright Oaks and that Walmart needed to significantly redesign their site plan to even make it marginally realistic. Their current plan pushes much of the traffic problems of the future onto our roadways rather than their internal roads and parking lots. There is plenty of land that Walmart could buy in that site that might allow them to properly design their plan to effectively manage the traffic with much less disturbance to the existing public roads which are already overloaded, but so far, they have refused to spend the extra money and repeatedly have put their bottom line before the interests of their own customers in every facet of this plan.

    This decision by SHA helps to force them to hopefully finally redesign the plan in a way that makes some sense. And if Walmart can’t come up with a new design that satisfactorily complies with the requirements, they will come to same conclusion that Wegmans before them did, and decide to go elsewhere.

    It is preposterous to me that one of the most well-respected traffic engineering firms in the country can’t design a plan that acknowledges reality, when scores of people with little to no expertise in the matter could easily point out the major flaw in the proposed plan ages ago. Are we really to believe that they are that incompetent?

    Or are they obtuse? Are they bought and paid for by Walmart to do a study and help them design a plan that has maximum benefit for Walmart regardless of reality or regulations? Is Walmart doing everything they can to slip every piece of the plan through the regulatory process, while at the same time ignoring all public input?

    I think we know the answers here. There’s a high cost to low prices, and Walmart is going to make sure you pay the cost. People need to be more invested in protecting their community from the collusion that’s going on all around them. Walmart is the subject here, and certainly one of the largest players, but it’s not just them, things like this are happening all the time.

    It doesn’t matter if you love Walmart, it doesn’t matter if you want a Walmart at Plumtree Road, you need to be paying attention to what they are doing and calling them out where needed. Do you think if community groups hadn’t organized and brought serious attention to this plan that all of these various problems with the original plans and designs would have been brought up? I don’t think so. A microscope was put on this by public attention to it, and the public needs to apply that formula to everything happening around them.

    Traffic congestion and over-development are two of the foremost concerns in Harford right now and we got here because we weren’t paying attention.

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    • Steve Jacobs says

      Noble sez “Traffic congestion and over-development are two of the foremost concerns in Harford right now and we got here because we weren’t paying attention.”

      But that’s the way of mankind. Elders reject development and change. Young ins don’t really care and are complacent. Greed and self interest is an interminable force, so big business and politicians have the control.

      I was here before 24 stretched from Bel Air and 95. Imagine that, quiet peaceful small town atmosphere. We all knew 24 would be lined with stores and housing one day, there’s just a little bit more trees to mow down and you’re not going to stop it. That’s why we chose a rural area in Forest Hill to live ’cause you could see what we’re headed for.

      Walmart is a coming my friend, bitch all you want….

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 6
      • noble says

        I never said anything about saving trees or stopping development. It’s called a development envelope for a reason. And I agree with most of what you said otherwise, but I am not an elder, and I chose to live in the development envelope when I moved here so I knew exactly what I was getting into and I don’t have any problems or illusions about that. I don’t care what happens to the trees at Plumtree Road, so long as the zoning is proper and regulations are followed to the letter.

        But if “bitching” helps to ensure that any development happening in the county is put through the ringer and held strictly to code, so that qualify of life is improved, streets are safer, etc, then I will keep right on “bitching” about it.

        What have you done other than run away from it? …because that’s really helpful to everyone.

        Well-loved. Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1
        • Steve Jacobs says

          I was just smart enough to not be around it to begin with………..the woods and fields around me look gorgeous this time of year!

          Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 1 Thumb down 7
      • The Money Tree says

        Let’s not pretend that without the state making new requirements for both septic and controlled developement (check planning and zoning website for parameters formula based upon population and the state forcing the counties to create controlled growth plans) that your supposedly “safe” property in Forest Hill wouldn’t be the next townhouse development particularly if the developer has a certain last name. This proposed Walmart isn’t anywhere near where I live and I probably would seldom even see it but if the majority of the neighbors in that area have concerns and if the traffic issues are legitimate then I stand with them. There are plenty of people that live within the envelope that lived there before there was such thing as an envelope so the clarvoiancy you suggest they ought to have had doesn’t always apply. We’re past the tipping point in population where anything goes in terms of conversion of open space. We owe it to the next generation of Harford Countians to leave something that doesn’t look like York Rd. Yes, they’ll build something on that location – either a scaled down Walmart or something else but it needs to fit the location.

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        • disgusted says

          Within 1/2 mile on either side of york rd is some pretty pricy real estate from Hereford all the way down and through Towson. There may even be a walmart or 2 in the area.

          Only a dolt wouldn’t know that.

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          • The Money Tree says

            This is about traffic issues and has nothing to do with property values. Hunt Valley surely has some pretty high dollar stuff but York Rd. is a nightmare and a testament to poor planning.

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

          And only a dolt wouldn’t know you can’t build townhouses with septic systems…..

          No matter what your last name is.

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          • The Money Tree says

            Actually you can – in fact if I’m not mistaken HCC operates on a septic system. Also Fallston Commons took over the old hospital location because they had a large already functioning septic. Of course it’s not ideal and costs quite a bit but it can be done – to your (I guess) point that doesn’t mean it’s completely legal or wouldn’t undermine state minimum requirement in todays terms. I think once again you’re so personally vindictive you prefer to spar than make a point. I support the value of existing neighborhoods to the people that live there and thier right to have some say in the evolution of inevitable progress; nothing more, nothing less. Mud wrestling pigs is always a mistake – you only get dirty and the pig likes it.

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          • disgusted says

            HCC? Harford Community College is a townhouse development in forest hill?

            Are you nutz?

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      • Tom says

        After the development bubble is full what makes you think that it won’t expand into Forest Hill too. Where will you run then?

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

          It will move to forest hill one day. Only people who live in LALA land and Money Tree think development can be stopped. But there will need to be zoning changes and infrastructure before that happens and the whole point is if you sleep through those changes then complain it really isn’t everyone elses fault. But for me by the time that happens I will be long gone from Harford county and the state of Maryland.

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    • Brian says

      So you think this ends the project do you? It was always stupid to have access from 924, but they figured if they could push it through why not try? Walmart has decided that it wants to build there, so despite all the complaining they will get it done. They just need to move on to access plan B. They are so far ahead of all of you people in what is going to happen with this project. They don’t pay consultants millions of dollars to have SHA end a project because they don’t have an entrance from 924.

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  8. Cool story bro says

    Once some “Move to opportunity” priced residences are built there, along with an MTA bus stop, peeps be wishing Wally World was there.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 15
  9. New Council Needed says

    Pay attention at election time! Your good ol’ boys and Cap’ns allowed the zoning that have made these messes possible. Get some people who pay attention to the details and get rid of those who don’t. PRIMARIES count here, people!

    Well-loved. Thumb up 15 Thumb down 4
  10. potato chips says

    Thumbs up if yyou’re gonna wave a red flag with golden hammer and sickle at the next anti Walmart protest

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 12
    • D says

      If you are talking about collective ownership, that is less than likely. But if you are brainstorming about what Evergreen should look for in a development partner perhaps that would be a good location for UCH to put in addition offices, a senior living community, or a restaurant park. What a nice complement that would be to the park the county will put in at Wheel/924 and the art center at Wheel/24. But rest assured that Walmart sees this as a speed bump and not a dead end. However, the employees don’t have to worry about moving to a new location in 2013.

      Perhaps Walmart should consider buying the storage business behind their current store and building their SuperCenter there. Every business has a value and a price. The storage business could relocate down the road and have better visibility on the lot between Lowes and BJs.

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        • noble says

          But it doesn’t have to. Either Walmart or the developer of the CF center could spend some money to reconfigure the internal roads to make it better for everybody.

          And if you are referring to the Tollgate/24/924 intersection outside the center, well, it is what it is and won’t ever be better than it is short of devastating plague. There is no better solution to that intersection than the one we have, and whether you like or not, it’s better than it was going to be if they hadn’t changed it. They’ve studied it post construction and the wait times (queing) has gone down.

          People love to complain but the truth is it works better than it used to, even with several flaws.

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    • Brian says

      They have already talked of putting a round about in at Bel Air South pkwy. So Walmart will pay for that and put a light on Plumtree road. I still think they should have an entrance coming off of 24 for north bound traffic and an exit back on to 24 for shoppers continuing north to Bel Air.

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      • Keith Gabel says

        If I’m not mistaken, Walmart’s original plan called for the new store to have three entrances, 1 main entrance on 924 and two smaller entrances on Plumtree and Blue Spruce. It will still go ahead with two entrances rather than three. This isn’t really a problem, as many others have said. Also, Walmart and the County will debate to what extent road improvements, and who pays for them, will be needed on County roads. As for, 924, Walmart will conform to the SHA’s rulings.

        This entire issue has primarily been about traffic abatement and it appears that it is finally reaching some resolution that is favorable to all parties involved.

        As for access from 24, that road is limited access and the SHA has no plans to open up access to it for commercial properties, especially when said properties are already connected to it via Plumtree and Bel Air South Parkway.

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  11. doritos says

    Congestion sucks.because of typical Harford county stupidity.

    Every morning people make a right hand turn off 543 onto 136 to enter that dunkin.donuts/convenience store, only to hold up traffic, because everyday there is an 1/8th mile long line of vehicles stopped at 136 both ways. The light timing favors 543 even if minimal traffic.

    Why on earth people want to turn into that location via backed up traffic light at 136 when there is clearly an entranceva 543 leaves me clueless.

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    • Because says

      I am in that traffic, and my experience is very few vehicles turn into that Dunkin Donuts, instead they are held up by a bus that later turns at Goat Hill Road as the vast majority of traffic wants to speed along 543 to make the turn off at I 95. Because they are in a hurry to get to somewhere south of Harford County, although they live here and pay taxes here for our cramped and congested feeder roads to I 95.

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    • Because says

      Walmart needs to find your property and build on it and move you to Ceciltucky

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2
  12. Tom says

    Thank you Dem controlled SHA for doing something that the Harford County Council didn’t have the guts to do Cheers!

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 6
  13. George WhikburrrrrrrrRRRR says

    Aite Bel Air Southies also known as Edgewood North, don’t be heading out to the shoulder of 924 jersey shore fist bumping and feet stomping chanting we won. All major construction get some road blocks (no pun intended) at some point.

    Hip hip HOORAY, I can’t wait for the new Wally World.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 9
  14. Darth Spader says

    Edgewood North residents should go by what the great Darth Vader said… “It is useless to resist”

    Wal Mart is coming, and this is “old news.”

    Major construction projects like this always have roadblocks (no pun intended).

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 2 Thumb down 6
  15. The Money Tree says

    I digress…but gosh another proud Walmart moment. Seems the EBT (foodstamp) cards weren’t functioning in Louisiana due to some sort of glitch but instead of telling the card holders that they couldn’t take the cards until corrections were made Walmart made the decision to allow for uncapped sales. That means the stores were stripped clean as the free for all was on. Walmart will end up being paid by the gov’mnt (we the taxpayer) in full because that’s the way the game will be played. Walmart had a choice to do the right thing or run up the tab on the taxpayers by being in cahoots with those that basically stole everything in the store. Thanks Sam Walton.

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    • disgusted says

      Since EBT is a state run program and you claim you will be paying for it, I should have figured you were in Louisiana from your posts.

      What a dolt.

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  16. christina says

    SHA you all are my hero! Could you have imagined the traffic on 924 w/ schools and buisnesses open? It would have been a nightmare! So does this put the kabash on the Wal-Mart?

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    • d says

      This does not stop the entire project, just the entrance at Bright Oaks Drive. Walmart will need to rework their site plan and traffic analysis and resubmit it to the county. By the way, traffic has gotten much worse on 924 in recent weeks. There were several accidents in the area this week.

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      • E says

        What makes you believe Wal-Mart hasn’t already had pages of paperwork already drawn up for Plans B-Z, then back round again? They are proactive, not reactive.

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    • Bel Air Bob says

      If you read the decision SHA says there is no need for state road access, the county roads can handle the additional traffic just fine.

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      • d says

        @BAB–They don’t say fine but say ample opportunity for access. There was no statement of traffic or ability of the road to handle it.

        @E–who said or cares if Walmart is proactive or reactive on that point. The fact remains that they were denied access to 924 and have to submit a new site plan with reworked traffic and road analysis. I don’t care if that’s in a folder waiting to be submitted or if Mr Traffic Group is pulling an all-nighter to get it done. I can say that Walmart probably wants to pay as little as possible for the work and The Traffic Group wants to bill as many hours as possible.

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