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Public Weighs In On Bel Air Walmart

The overwhelming message from residents packed into the Patterson Mill High School auditorium was: we don't want a Walmart at the intersection of Plumtree and Emmorton roads.

The auditorium of was packed Thursday with people itching to comment on a proposed Bel Air Walmart.

During an informational video and presentation from Walmart, people in the audience made their voices heard shouting, "you're wasting our time."

Throughout the presentation, index cards were passed around for comments. A stack of about 800-900 comment cards were collected by the end of the meeting, which ran 45 minutes long, ending around 9:15 p.m.

"My basic comment to Walmart is: none of us want you. Go away," said one man from the Bright Oaks community.

A woman from the Bright Oaks community said she is concerned about property values.

My house is for sale and I can't sell it now with a Walmart in my front yard," she said.

Comments and answers were greeted with loud feedback from the crowd, either in the form of cheering and applause or booing.

Steve Toby of Overview Manor said he questioned his neighbors and, “85 percent of those people said not only no, but hell no,” to a Walmart at the proposed intersection.

While outrage, frustration and opposition were the sentiments expressed by community members, Walmart representatives say there is a demand for the new store.

Nina Albert, director of community affairs with Walmart, confirmed that should Walmart open the Bel Air location, the Abingdon store would close and all of those employees would transfer to the new store. There would also be an addition of 75-100 jobs created with the move.

A big reason for the move, Albert said, is for the purpose of expansion and adding a grocery store. Whether the new location will be open 24 hours or not is a decision that has not yet been finalized.

“There is significant support, quite frankly, for the expansion of the store in this area,” Albert said.

She explained to Patch following the meeting that customers are clamoring for a grocery option.

The Abingdon site could not handle the expansion, Albert said. In addition to the space limitation, the business is restricted by covenant preventing the business from selling groceries.

Concerns about traffic took the lead in the discussion as did concerns about crime, light and noise pollution and impact on local small businesses.

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Find live meeting updates below:

8:36 p.m.: Several members of the community asked for consideration of noise abatement and asked about lighting plans.

7:59 p.m.: Toby also suggested those in the room join him in boycotting the Constant Friendship location. Members of the crowd sent out suggestions of Fallston and Aberdeen also. "From this point on, Target is our community store."

7:58 p.m.: Steve Toby of Overview Manor said he questioned his community members and, “85% of those people said not only no, but hell no.”

7:55 p.m.: This is our community. Don't for a minute think this is a done deal, said one community member.

7:48 p.m.: Jay from Bright Oaks said he has no problem with capitalism, but has yet to find a Walmart whose entrance is also the main way out for a residential community. If people want to buy houses near the new Fallston Walmart knowing it is there. It is not right to place it in our back yard.

7:47 p.m.: Nina asks several residents to come forward to speak on the Abingdon site issue.

7:45 p.m.: A team within Walmart is responsible for repurposing property for the former site. There are no set plans on what will replace the Abingdon site because the new location has not been built yet.

7:44 p.m.: A male Walmart representative said the company has been moving toward offering groceries and expanding, however there are restrictions that will not allow them to expand at the Abingdon site.

7:40 p.m.: A Bright Oaks resident said the traffic has become a problem in his neighborhood to the point that he has lost three animals and he does not feel a Walmart will help the situation. He said it is clear Walmart is moving for a financial reason and asked how Walmart plans to compensate for the financial impact of property values.

7:39 p.m.: Nina with Walmart said the property is zoned B3 commercial.

7:37 p.m.: Walmart representative said the traffic signal and adjustments in the area have to be approved. This is the discussion process. With respect to buffering, there will be some buffering and screening along MD Route 924.

7:36 p.m.: "My house is for sale and I can't sell it now with a Walmart in my front yard," said one Bright Oaks resident. "My property value had decreased significantly in eight years and Walmart isn't going to help me sell my house either."

7:35 p.m.: "My basic comment to wal mart is none of us want you go away," said a man from Bright Oaks.

7:32 p.m.: Mike who lives on Laurel Bush says he is concer

7:32 p.m.: A traffic light will be placed at Bright Oaks Drive.

7:32 p.m.: The highway administration will not allow for ingress and egress on MD Route 24 alone.

7:20 p.m.: The traffic study has not been submitted so it has not been approved. The traffic counts have been done not on a holiday and not on a Sunday morning.

7:17 p.m.: Nina with Walmart reads questions from the public filled out on note cards.

7:15 p.m.: A Walmart representative outlines what is involved in a traffic study. Toward the end of his statements his words are drowned out with booing from the crowd.

7:12 p.m.: "You're wasting our time," one man in the crowd calls out.

7:11 p.m.: The crowd is becoming restless.

7:10 p.m.: A video outlining the architecture of the building and materials to be used flashes on the screen set to serene music. 

7:08 p.m.: Patterson Mill HIgh School's Auditorium is packed with folks standing along the walls and in the back of the room.

RW Willy July 22, 2012 at 02:38 PM
But you reap the benefits of employment in someone else's backyard! As for sitting 15 minutes waiting to get out of Bright Oaks.. shouldn't take more then 3-4 minutes once the new light is up.
Phil Dirt July 22, 2012 at 06:01 PM
Yeah Walmart has never opened a store before and they don't know what they're doing. Do you really think that they are depending on shoppers from out of the area who happen to notice the store and stop to shop there to keep them in business? I have a strong feeling that most people in the Greater Bel Air Metropolitan Area will be fully aware of that Walmart, regardless of its visibilty from 24.
Frank July 22, 2012 at 06:49 PM
OK Aaron, what would you like to put in there? Something IS going in regardless. As for The brambles there that is a parking lot. Don't even get into "what will happen to Bambi and Thumper". As long as it stays the way it is, those critters will be Road Kill when they try to get water. (There are no streams there) This Super Walmart increases it's workforce by 100 jobs. What is your contribution to the local job market? But you have touched on the real issue, but I bet you can't guess what it is. To know this, you would have had to live in the area over 35 years, like ME.
Aaron July 23, 2012 at 01:04 AM
Phil, Walmart has opened stores and had to close stores too. Frank, it’s not what I think should go there but what the neighborhood wants to go there. Whatever goes there should be neighborhood friendly. In this case I don’t believe a Superstore in the area sited is in Walmart’s best interest or the neighborhood’s best interest. It’s a lose-lose situation.
Cindy July 23, 2012 at 02:32 AM
The small Business Owner can't keep up with these large Box Stores. Look around the Bel Air area, a lot of the Strip Malls have empty spaces. The Small Businesses can't compete. I do believe that the home values will depreciate, with the new Walmart, look what happened to the Constant Frienship area. I knew people that moved from that area when the Abingdon Walmart moved in. Why doesn't Walmart look into the Forest Hill area or Churchville areas, there's an abundance of land in those communities. This area is overly developed.
Karl Schuub July 23, 2012 at 12:23 PM
Big box stores are far more damaging than just driving down wages and putting small local businesses out of business. There are unique and wonderful things about each town that disappear when small local businesses fall away and end up being replaced by an blase national sameness when big box takes over - same with restaurants - how many Chili's and Carraba Grills does one town need, particularly when patrons sadly prefer the sameness - they've been mass marketed into a belief that these things are somehow better. We'll end up with a downtown filled with nothing but antique stores and bars - just like Havre de Grace if we aren't careful. Enough with the big box stores - it's robbing us of our sense of history and character that used to be Belair.
Common Sense July 23, 2012 at 12:41 PM
Please stop the defeatist attitude. We need to keep up the pressure. Walmart has one-year to submit plans to the Development Advisory Committee (DAC) then there will be a DAC meeting that will be open to the public. The community will be notified two weeks in advance of the DAC meeting which are held on Wednesdays at 9:00 am. All the county reviewing agencies will be there so it is important that the community attend this meeting. In the mean time everyone needs to write the County Executive, Director of Planning and Zoning and Councilman. Be polite and state the facts of why you oppose this development. Here are the addresses: County Executive David R. Craig Harford County Government 220 South Main Street Bel Air, MD 21014 Director of Planning and Zoning Pete C. Gutwald 220 South Main Street 2nd Floor Bel Air, MD 21014 County Councilman District 'C' James V. McMahan 212 South Bond Street 1st Floor Bel Air, MD 21014
franking July 23, 2012 at 12:45 PM
Why do you think Target is any better than Walmart?
Larry Smith July 23, 2012 at 12:51 PM
This was formerly zoned residential, but was quietly re-zoned to B3 a few years back. Those who knew about the zoning change were told this would be for "moderate business use", meaning small businesses that would have a positive influence on the community, not a big box store that would attract an additional 10,000 cars per day into an already congested area. Those who lied during the re-zoning are the ones who sold this community out!
RW Willy July 23, 2012 at 01:29 PM
Support "American Buggy Whip"! If small business can't compete, maybe their business model or product line is at fault? The fact that people you knew were able to move "when" Walmart showed up means you can sell your houses. NIMBY, love your ability to find a better location in someone eles's yard. I'm sure you are well versed in the development plan for the county
Karl Schuub July 23, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Do you fail to see why a small business might not be able to compete with a congolmerate that can largely control pricing or make demands on manufacturers that a small business can't? Do you understand the economy of scale? This isn't anything to do with saving an out of date technology...I understand as does just about everyone else we don't shop for typewriters anymore.
OldHarfordCounty July 23, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Really, we don't shop small business anymore. Tiddleywinks (I think that was the name) was a small childrens toy and bookstore on Main St. It is now closed. My belief is we don't like small business that much, too pricey and not enough selection. We only like small business that act like big box stores. I only wish there was all this space in strip centers that you are talking about. I have often though Bel Air lacked space as seen as commercial rents the same in Bel Air as in Towson and Hunt Valley with a lot smaller population base. Open commerical space in Bel Air is more about the landlord than about no one wanting it.
Karl Schuub July 23, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Don't you see - the reason nobody shops small business anymore is that it almost always costs more and the result is an utter, and all shades of grey sameness almost everywhere you go. The entire reason for the national decline in small business retail is Walmart and Target and all the other national, big box entities that drive an economy of scale that at some point makes it nearly impossible for small business to compete. It doesn't help us that our towns are being taken over by a faceless bunch of suits in a business suite in Manhattan. We will rue the day we lost any ability to decide what our towns should be.
Kelly Pez July 23, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Why can't Walmart petition Bel Air/Harford County to change the restrictions on the Abingdon location so that they CAN expand to include a supermarket? Not only will traffic be even worse in their proposed new location, but as someone who plans to move in the next year or so, I am no longer considering the area near the proposed new Walmart site because of the extra traffic that would bring to the area. So the people who live near that site now are right to be concerned about their property values.
Richard S*****r July 23, 2012 at 04:25 PM
NO, I blame the people are not willing to take the time to seek out the small businesses. The price really isn't that different. If we instead of buying bulk and cheap, buy local and quality. Wal Mart sells the same products I do, but when those products break or can not be repaired they come and find me to get the quality products. It is all about taking the time to do the research and finding the local business that sells the products you are looking for.
Monica July 23, 2012 at 04:34 PM
I thought the original plan for Plumtree and 924 was to be something like The Avenue in White Marsh. What happened to that idea?
OldHarfordCounty July 23, 2012 at 07:28 PM
The county block themselves in at the current location: It can not handle more traffic in there. What is built there already has caused traffic jams due to poor design. No shopping center with that much traffic should be built with a single exit and entrance. Also, it is not county restrictions, it is rumored to be lease restrictions at the sight the prevent food from being sold there for 8 years. The 924 site with have four exit onto two different roads. Overall, this is a much better traffic area for a big box store. I feel safe to say no one is going to call 911 stuck in traffic for 3 hours at this location.
Jack Weber July 24, 2012 at 11:30 AM
WalMart provides jobs for the community and this will be a nice addition, a definite improvement over the scrub brush and weeds that are there right now.
Terry July 24, 2012 at 02:03 PM
Spot on Jack.....
Karl Schuub July 24, 2012 at 02:17 PM
For every job Walmart adds, more are lost. Walmart is not good for the long term economic health of this town, nor this country. When analyzing what's good you need to also include unintended potential outcomes - because the economy can be a growing pie; but right now in this economy it's pretty fixed. For every television you buy $20.00 cheaper at Walmart; it's just that much closer to closing down the Best Buy, let's not even get into the peril to our local grocers. These are not sum game job additions. Walmart's gains are almost always followed losses elsewhere.
Belairmom July 24, 2012 at 08:24 PM
It will actually have 3 exits, 2 side exits on Blue Spruce (one of which is meant to serve as the truck entrance) and the main one on 924. I'm not sure how much good the Blue Spruce ones will be. To access Blue Spruce from 24N, you make a right onto Bel Air South Parkway and then make a left onto Blue Spruce. As anyone who lives in that immediate area can tell you, good luck with that turn. It should be better from 24S, but they might have to make the left turn lane longer on 24 to get onto Plumtree. The Bright Oaks light should be interesting. With lights at Wheel Rd, Bel Air Pkwy, Plumtree and Patterson Mill already, it won't be smooth sailing to get through that area. Add the buses from PMMS/HS and RFE and the rush hour traffic, it's going to me messy over there.
HarfordLassie July 25, 2012 at 04:18 AM
Who is "we" that want a WalMart at this location? Where do you live?
HarfordLassie July 25, 2012 at 04:29 AM
Don't forget the tractor trailer traffic that will be added to 924. The idea that a tractor trailer will turn off 24 on to Blue Spruce and do a U turn to get behind the building is a huge design flaw. There is no way there is enough space for that to happen. A tractor trailer can not make that tight of a turn. So the trucks will come in on 924.
HarfordLassie July 25, 2012 at 04:30 AM
That was supposed to be across the street where Walgreens is. That's where the sign used to be.
HarfordLassie July 25, 2012 at 04:31 AM
Seriously you think an asphalt lot with a lot of traffic, light, noise, pollution, transients camping there and staring at the WalMart logo when you go out the door is an improvement?
HarfordLassie July 25, 2012 at 04:33 AM
And we have the new fire company right by Patterson Mill too. How long will it take them to get through a mostly 2 lane road with all the traffic congestion?
HarfordLassie July 25, 2012 at 04:40 AM
WalMart is trying to fast track this thing hoping the public doesn't have a chance to react. We have a voice about why this is a bad location for a big box store- ANY big box store. We have a right to contact WalMart and let them know we will not shop there. We have power as voters. We have power but a lot of you seem to think there's nothing that can be done before even trying.
HarfordLassie July 25, 2012 at 04:48 AM
Personally I think there is something wrong when SHA won't allow entrances from 24 but the county will allow them on what is primarily a local 2 lane road.
Tom W July 26, 2012 at 06:36 PM
I didn't realize that so many numbskulls have moved in my county and now that they are here.... it's stop growth ???
ellis ecko September 10, 2012 at 04:33 PM
For those who don;t want the Walmart: FYI- Comprehensive zoning is done every eight years BUT the county executive can initiate it at any time. Craig can stop ithe Walmart by changing the zoning.

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