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Calvert to Weigh Three More Options to Block, Curb Wal-Mart

By Amit R. Paley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 24, 2005; Page SM01

Calvert County officials have come up with three new strategies for blocking or limiting the size of a proposed Wal-Mart in Dunkirk that critics believe subverts the intent of county zoning regulations passed last summer.

The county commissioners are scheduled to discuss the proposals Tuesday afternoon, just weeks after they rejected as unworkable several other possible options for blocking the retailer's plan for side-by-side stores.

Four of the five commissioners have said they oppose the dual Wal-Mart operations -- one for general merchandise and the other a garden center, each with its own entrance, utilities, bathrooms and cash registers -- because the two buildings would have a combined area 30 percent larger than the town's 75,000-square-foot limit on such "big-box" retail stores.

Although Commissioner Susan Shaw (R-Huntingtown) said she has not reviewed the new strategies, she worried that they could place impractical restrictions on local businesses. She said that was why she had rejected the options presented earlier this month.

"That's the problem with all of this stuff: What do the unintended consequences look like?" she said Friday.

In response to those concerns, Greg Bowen, the county's planning director, crafted three additional ordinances that would prohibit Wal-Mart from opening a 74,998-square-foot general retail store adjacent to a 22,689-square-foot garden center in Dunkirk.

As outlined in an April 19 memo, those options, which would apply only to Dunkirk's town center, would:

• Require commercial retail buildings between 60,000 and 75,000 square feet to be at least 100 feet apart. For retail buildings smaller than that, the area of any two adjacent buildings could not exceed 65,000 square feet; the area of three adjacent buildings could not exceed 75,000 square feet; and the area of four adjacent buildings could not exceed 85,000 square feet.

• Require that roads will function at a level of service E or better to permit the construction of any commercial retail building larger than 40,000 square feet. Traffic levels of service range from A (free-flowing with minimal or no delay) to F (low speeds, highly congested, stop-and-go with delays at intersections with traffic signals).

• Prevent any building larger than 5,000 square feet from being located within 200 feet of commercial retail buildings larger than 25,000 square feet.

Richard B. Kabat, managing director in the mid-Atlantic states for Charlotte-based Faison Enterprises, the developer of the Wal-Mart site, said the proposals are a misguided attempt to target one store at the expense of consumers and businesses in the county.

"This is a convoluted way to try and keep Wal-Mart out," he said. "They are going to so convolute site planning as to make development in their community difficult if not impossible."

He said the proposal requiring larger stores to be set off from smaller stores would undermine the intent of the big-box ordinance.

"The beginning of the whole big-box issue was that we don't want a big box standing alone in a sea of asphalt," he said. "But now in order to keep Wal-Mart out, they want to keep Wal-Mart standing alone and nothing within 100 feet."

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