The Calvert County planning commission has recommended that "big-box" stores be limited to 125,000 square feet in Prince Frederick and 90,000 square feet in minor town centers.
The recommendations include size limits, design requirements and maintenance agreements. They will go before the Board of Commissioners, which does not have to accept them, on Aug. 10.
The size limits would affect plans to build a 145,000-square-foot Wal-Mart in Dunkirk, said Mia Masten, Wal-Mart regional community affairs manager. They also would affect plans to expand the Prince Frederick Wal-Mart from 91,424 to 187,000 square feet, Masten said.
Commission members said in a meeting Wednesday night that the proposed limits would prevent oversize stores from drawing outside traffic into the county.
"I think Calvert County is too small for unlimited or huge boxes," said John Ward, commission president. "We just don't have that infrastructure available to us here, and we have no way of getting it."
The commission gave Prince Frederick a higher limit because it is the county's largest town center.
"It's the center of government and the center of commerce," Ward said. "That would be the place for the larger size."
Big-box stores would also have to include smaller stores on their property to encourage small businesses, the commission said.
"The intention of co-location is to not just have the big box sitting there," Ward said.
Stores in minor town centers -- Dunkirk, Solomons and Lusby -- must incorporate smaller stores into their square footage limit, said Greg Bowen, the county's deputy planning director.
"It is to provide potential business locations for local businesses and also to provide a variety of shopping opportunities," Bowen said.
Stores larger than 75,000 square feet should follow design criteria that could range from varying the roofline to breaking up long, flat walls, the commission said. Areas designated as sidewalks should not be used as outdoor retail area.
"The concern of the membership is they've seen cases in the past where just a sidewalk was proposed in front of a big box," Bowen said, "but then years later it had turned into an outdoor sales area and pedestrians were forced into the parking lot."
The commission proposed a maintenance agreement requiring a certain level of upkeep even if a store is closed. Bowen said that is to help other businesses survive.
Under the recommendations, big-box stores will have to provide a solution for the additional traffic they attract -- such as a new lane or a traffic light.
The developer of the Wal-Mart planned for Dunkirk failed to get an exemption last week from prospective limitations on the size of big-box stores. In a 3 to 2 vote, the Board of Commissioners refused to further consider the developer's petition.