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Hearing set on Wal-Mart proposal

April 14, 2001

Hearing set on Wal-Mart proposal



By DAN KULIN

dank@herald-mail.com

A court hearing on the denial of a plan for a Wal-Mart Supercenter along Edgewood Drive in Hagerstown has been scheduled for June 22 in Washington County Circuit Court.

Court documents filed for Wyatt Development in Aiken, S.C., claim the Hagerstown Planning Commission did not have the authority to turn down the development plan for the reasons cited in its December ruling.

Wyatt Development is proposing to build a 200,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter plus a 30,000-square-foot retail building on 31.5 acres along Edgewood Drive.

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Commission members ruled in December that the project is too large for C-2 commercial district zoning. They said the project should be built on land in a C-4 commercial district, which is for shopping centers that occupy at least 200,000 square feet.

Wyatt Development attorney William C. Wantz stated in a memorandum to the court that the city's Planning Department staff and not the Planning Commission has the authority to determine whether a development fits the zoning classification.

Wantz said the Planning Department told Wyatt Development the proposed shopping center fit the zoning specifications for the property.

Wantz also stated C-2 commercial zoning does not limit the size of a development.

In turning down the project, some Planning Commission members also said they were concerned about increased traffic on Edgewood Drive.

The Wal-Mart plan has drawn strong opposition from nearby Funkstown residents and elected officials who say the store would dramatically and dangerously increase traffic through the town.

Wantz states in his court memorandum that the City Planning Commission is not permitted to turn down a proposal based on off-site traffic concerns.

A third issue cited by the Planning Commission in December was that a proposed 6-foot wall between Funkstown Elementary School and the Wal-Mart should be taller. Commission members discussed asking that the wall be 10 feet or taller.

Hagerstown law limits such walls to 6 feet, but allows exceptions.

Wantz stated the Planning Commission cannot require the developer to seek approval of a wall that would be higher than is allowed without being granted an exception.

John Urner, the Hagerstown City Attorney who has been handling this case, could not be reached for comment Friday.

The June 22 court hearing is scheduled to last one hour. No judge has been assigned.

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