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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.

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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