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“All That Standing in the Cold Paid Off”

17 November 2015

“All that standing in the cold paid off,” said Khiyali when I shared with her the news that Walmart is NOT coming to Bel Air.  She was talking about all the public meetings and protests we have been carrying out ever since we heard that Walmart, which already has a store near Bel Air, planned to close that store and open a new one in Bel Air, just 3 miles from downtown.

ProtestWalmart100

NO Bel Air Walmart Rally October 2012

Of course we still have to watch what they do, but this is a clear victory for people’s collective action.  How many county council meetings we packed to standing-room-only, how many people spoke, waiting for hours for their turn, how many protests we held on Main Street / Emmorton Avenue, how many late nights we spent at public meetings learning about traffic studies and the details of ways we could challenge the plan and keep Walmart out of Bel Air.

Here’s the story from Brian Goodman at the Dagger:

Unable to reach an extension on a contract to purchase coveted property at the intersection of Route 924 and Plumtree Road, Walmart has ended its years-long, highly-controversial planned relocation and construction of a Supercenter store on the Bel Air site.

For longer than four years, Walmart proposed to build a 186,000 sq. ft. Bel Air Supercenter on land that is zoned “B3, General Business District”, a designation that allows for the development of such a store. The Supercenter, which might have been be open 24 hours a day, was to include the sale of groceries, an automotive center, pharmacy with drive thru, and a garden center. Company officials said at a community input meeting that the store could generate up to 10,000 vehicle trips per day.

Just after 5pm on Monday, Harford County Councilman Jim McMahan announced via his Coffee Talk public email list that, “As of 5pm today I have been told be reliable sources that Walmart is no longer interested in pursuing the site at Plumtree and 924,” he wrote.

“I THINK THE PEOPLE SPOKE!,” he added.

Later in the evening, Walmart confirmed the information. According to Walmart spokesman Lorenzo Lopez:

“We were unable to reach agreement on an additional extension of the contract to purchase the site located at the intersection of Route 924 and Plumtree and are no longer pursuing a relocation to that property.

“We greatly value our relationship with Harford County, and remain committed to serving the many Harford County residents who shop in our stores and benefit from access to quality goods at affordable prices. We would also like to thank the many Harford County residents who have supported Walmart’s efforts.”

After the Walmart relocation was initially proposed, a citizens group called No Bel Air Walmart was formed to oppose the plan at every step along the way – from passing out literature and bumper stickers at community events to filling public hearings with testimony to lining the streets and waving signs at passersby.

As plans for the new Bel Air Walmart made their way through the approval process, traffic concerns were raisednew zoning legislation was proposed, and revelations of an obscure provision in the deed for the Abingdon location limiting the sale of groceries on the property until 2018 – and thus preventing the company from expanding the store into a Supercenter – were made public.

It remains unclear if Walmart still intends to relocate to a new location in the area other than the Plumtree Road and Route 924 site.

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