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Editorial - Enough retail, already

March 11, 1998

Editorial - Enough retail, already

The proposal for yet another retail shopping center in Washington County, this one using the Wesel Boulevard model, has got us wondering: How much retail does Washington County need? And more important, are the benefits the area will derive worth the inevitable problems with traffic and stormwater runoff?

The new development would be built on 85 acres south of Valley Mall, not far from Hickory Elementary School. To get the project off the ground, a 34-acre parcel of that tract needs to be rezoned from Residential Multi-Family to Business General.

If the development takes place, it will put more traffic onto Virginia Avenue, a two-lane road that isn't adequate to handle its present load. Residents of the area also claim that the existing sewer system is inadequate to handle residential flow, let alone the added load from a shopping center. They also fear that runoff from large parking lots would worsen flooding problems in the neighborhood.

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Those concerns will be addressed in various zoning and subdivision reviews. Our concern is more basic. With a plethora of shopping choices - and a major multi-store outlet center on the way - does Washington County need any more retail stores?

Some might argue that the area still lacks an upscale department store like Neiman-Marcus, but if one was built, only a handful of local people would shop there. Within a year or less. the doors would close, leaving the area with yet another empty storefront to add to the current collection.

And what about the jobs the new center would bring? Yes there would be some management positions, but for the most part, we're talking retail store clerks and maintenance people.

It would be much better, we believe, to encourage the development company to consider using this land for a business park. Traffic in and out of such parks isn't constant, and the amount of blacktop needed isn't as great. And despite our low jobless rate, what Washington County needs is more jobs that pay more than $5 or $6 an hour. County officials who agree ought to try to convince developers that what the county needs isn't more stores, but better jobs.

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