Are “Big Box” stores coming soon to your backyard?!

On Wednesday, June 7, the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission is going to be meeting at the County office building, 225 North Center St. in Westminster. The meeting will begin at 6 PM in Room 003. (You’ll enter on the side of the building.)

For Eldersburg – and especially for the families who live around and nearby 1503 Liberty Road ¬– the highlight of this June 7 hearing will be the discussion of a “text amendment.” If approved, this text amendment will increase the maximum store size for all B-NR (Business – Neighborhood Retail) zoned property in the County tenfold, from 10,000 SF to 100,000 SF.

This countywide increase in maximum store size is being considered for the sole purpose of enabling a single property owner to sell a 4.7 acre section in the upper right corner of the vacant lot shown below. The owner is hoping to sell this segment to LIDL (“leedle”), a very large European grocery store chain that is expanding into the United States. If the new zoning is approved, LIDL will buy this segment and build what will be a seventh full-size grocery store that Eldersburg neither needs nor can support.

 

For the record, the condominium and other homeowners who live around and nearby this vacant lot have, collectively, invested substantially more in their homes and community – and have more to lose as a result of this re-zoning – than the owner of the vacant land on whose behalf the County is considering changing B-NR zoning countywide.

Note the following…

– 100,000 SF is large enough to accommodate most “Big Box” stores.

– The larger the store, the more customers it needs to sustain its business.

– A single 100,000 SF store generates substantially more traffic than ten 10,000 SF stores and even more than twenty 5,000 SF stores.

– The larger the store, the greater the market area it serves. Put another way, the larger the store, the more it needs to draw customers from outside the immediate neighborhood and from outside Eldersburg – and the less concerned those customers will be about their impact on the neighborhood in which they are shopping.

Why do you think they call these big store “anchors”? Because the attract customers high volumes of customers for the benefit of smaller stores in their shopping centers.

– The larger the stores and the more vehicle traffic they bring to a given neighborhood, the lower your property values relative to what they would be if development in your neighborhood was less extensive.

– The owner/developer has alternatives. Development doesn’t need to involve Big Box stores or even commercial activity in order to be profitable.

– The greater the commercial presence, the more noise and nighttime lights, the higher the crime rates and the more time local residents will spend in traffic. The point is that it’s not just about the downward effect on property values. It’s about the quality of life in the affected neighborhood and greater community of Eldersburg.

– Justifying this tenfold increase in maximum store size – based on surrounding commercial growth and/or in anticipation of future C1, C2 and C3 zoning classifications which have not yet been approved – will show a lack of County interest in protecting established neighborhoods in favor of profits to be made by a single property owner/developer.

Approving this text amendment is not an example of thoughtful planning in support of existing master and comprehensive plans. Long story short, there’s no current, no compelling administrative or economic reason to increase the B-NR store size limit above 10,000 SF for this particular property. Could be that, when a new comprehensive plan is properly debated and approved, there will be some overriding reason to allow Big Box stores on this property at the expense of people living in the neighborhood, but that’s not currently the case. These people have rights that the Planning and Zoning Commission should and, we think, will respect.

All that said, please leave a comment below and let us and other people visiting our website know what you think.

No matter what your point of view, please do your best to attend the June 7 meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission to let the Members of the Commission appreciate how important this issue is to the Eldersburg community.

P.S.  While you’re here and if you haven’t already, please take a moment to fill out our anonymous Eldersburg Survey to let us know what you would like to see go on this special property.

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