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Wal-Mart proposal defeated

December 13, 2000

Wal-Mart proposal defeated



By DAN KULIN / Staff Writer


Spectators applauded the Hagerstown Planning Commission Wednesday night after members of the group voted 5-0 to deny approval of plans for a Wal-Mart Supercenter along Edgewood Drive near Funkstown.

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"It's like an early Christmas present," said Pam Newhouse, head of the Funkstown Citizens Coalition, a group formed in response to the proposal to build a Wal-Mart Supercenter just outside the Funkstown town limit.

Representatives from Aiken, S.C.-based Wyatt Development Co., which is proposing the Wal-Mart plans, would not comment after the planning commission vote.

Planning commission decisions can be appealed to Circuit Court.

The Wal-Mart plan had drawn strong opposition from some Funkstown residents and elected officials, who argued the store would dramatically and dangerously increase traffic through town.

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In several separate Wednesday night votes related to the proposed Wal-Mart, the planning commission agreed with those traffic concerns; decided a proposed wall between a school and the Wal-Mart should be higher than planned; and determined the proposed development would constitute a regional shopping center or department store, which indicates the development fits the criteria for a C-4 zoning designation and not the property's current C-2 zoning designation.

The commission voted 3-2 in favor of a motion stating the proposed development would bring more traffic than the existing roads could handle and would negatively impact the community.

"The infrastructure is inadequate to support the increased traffic," said City Councilman Alfred W. Boyer, who is also a member of the planning commission.

Planning commission member Fred Nugent said a new road would need to be built "before something this large can go into this area."

Commission member Dennis Miller agreed with Nugent and Boyer.

Commission member Jim Stone and Chairman Douglas Wright voted against that determination.

Wright said on this issue he couldn't vote against the advice from city staff, which said traffic would be at minimally acceptable levels of service.

But Wright added, "I shudder to think what will happen to Funkstown if this happens."

The commission, in a 5-0 vote, also agreed that a proposed 6-foot wall to go between the store and Funkstown Elementary School would not be high enough.

During the meeting, commission members discussed asking that the wall be 10-feet-tall or higher.

In another 5-0 vote, commission members determined the proposed development would constitute a regional shopping center or department store, in part because of its size.

That vote was important because Hagerstown's C-4 zoning designation is for a "regional shopping center ... which contains at least 200,000 square feet of rentable space," according to the City Code.

The development proposal calls for a roughly 200,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter, and another 30,000-square-foot retail building on about 31.5 acres on Edgewood Drive in Hagerstown and near the Funkstown line. The property is currently zoned C-2.

At the last planning commission meeting on the Wal-Mart proposal, Hagerstown attorney William C. Wantz, who is representing Wyatt Development, said the C-2 zoning does not limit the size of a building one can put in an area with that zoning.

Wantz also said the City Planning Department staff knew the size of the proposed development and recommended the C-2 zoning to the developer during the rezoning process in 1999.

Wright said Wednesday that staff members "regretfully have told this developer this fits on C-2 ... (But this development) is not appropriate for C-2. It's not an activity that should be on land that's zoned for C-2."

Stone said it was up to the developer to decide what zoning to seek.

The deliberations were done without the participation of Planning Commission member David Lyles, who was advised by the Washington County Ethics Commission to recuse himself from further actions on the proposal due to a conflict of interest.

Lyles, owner of David Lyles Developers in Hagerstown, and his family own property south of the site of the proposed store.

Commission member Steven Zaks did not attend the Wednesday meeting.

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