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Funkstown faces Wal-Mart over traffic

September 11, 2000

Funkstown faces Wal-Mart over traffic



By ANDREW SCHOTZ / Staff Writer


FUNKSTOWN - Opponents of a proposed strip mall to be anchored by a Wal-Mart Supercenter packed the Funkstown Town Hall Monday night as the developer explained traffic projections.

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About 90 people showed up for the meeting, which had to be moved from the downstairs meeting room to a larger room upstairs in Town Hall.

After about 20 Funkstown-area residents spoke against the project proposed for Edgewood Drive, the mayor and four Town Council members added their own objections.

"I'm going to do all I can to keep Wal-Mart out of here," Mayor Robert Kline said.

Officials from the development company and a firm that studied traffic said additional turning lanes would keep Funkstown roads from becoming too clogged. If improvements were made and the project were built, the town would be better off than if there were no Wal-Mart and no road changes, they said.

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"(More traffic) is going to be there in 2002, with or without us," said Matt Canady, the vice president of planning and development for Wyatt Development Co. of Aiken, S.C., the developer.

The hearing, which lasted more than three hours, afforded the public a chance to speak about the plan.

No decisions were made, however, because Funkstown officials have no authority over the project.

The 31.5-acre parcel on which the plaza would be built is in Hagerstown, near the Funkstown border. The city's Planning Commission is expected to consider the proposal when it meets on Sept. 27.

Canady said that a few roads would be restriped to provide for separate turning lanes. As a result, about nine parking places would be lost.

Also, a 9-foot-wide strip on Edgewood Drive would be paved for another turning lane, he said.

Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II has said he supports the plan because of the road improvements it would bring.

Greg Nearchos, a member of a citizens coalition that opposes the project, said that outside the post office Saturday, about 100 people signed letters asking that the development be denied.

George Wheelock of Funkstown told the Mayor and Town Council that a Wal-Mart would threaten the town's historic character.

Some of the opponents on Monday called for the town to discourage large-scale development in the area until a Funkstown bypass can be built.

According to Greg Rohrer, Washington County's director of public works, a bypass would cost about $18 million to $20 million. A bypass has been considered for more than 20 years, but there are no definite plans for one to be constructed, he said.

"Take this project and move it to downtown Hagerstown," David Rethemeyer of Hagerstown said to Canady and traffic engineer Mickey Cornelius, "because they could use it."

One speaker, Owen Garland, who owns a book and gift shop with his wife in Funkstown, told the crowd that it's partially to blame for the development that could happen. "We are addicted to convenience," he said.

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