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Friday, July 19, 2013

Will Wal-Mart Vote Impact City Election?

George Wenschhof

Last night, The City of Frederick board of aldermen voted 5-0 to rezone the Fredericktowne Mall property to general commercial allowing a third Wal-Mart to be built in the city.

The controversial decision followed a previous city rezoning of the property allowing for high density residential use following an argument by property owner attorney David Severn that economic conditions had changed.

Several years after that rezoning without the construction of any residential component on the property and a now vacant Mall, the property owner and his attorney were back before the city, once again claiming economic conditions had changed and requesting a zoning change back to general commercial.  This time, touting that Wal-Mart; their buyer for the property would be the savior for the community.

Along the way and prior to this request, city officials, community leaders and business owners formed the Golden Mile Alliance and together developed what they believed to be a guide for the redevelopment of the area.  This guide was dubbed the small area plan.

Amidst cries from Wal-Mart supporters that something had to be done to the mostly empty former Fredericktowne Mall and a previous denial from the city planning commission, city aldermen looked to require conditions to the rezoning to help to ensure capatibility with the previously approved small area plan.

Michael O'Connor was the lone alderman last night asking the hard questions pertaining to the inter-connector road, a pivotal component of the small area plan.  He asked attorney David Severn why the property owner had not secured legal approval to build the road across two adjacent properties. A question that was asked and never answered to satisfaction.

Redevelopment of areas of cities affected by economic and social demographic changes will always be a challenge for city planners and elected officials.  Looking outward to discover what other cities across the country have done successfully in similar circumstances is a must.  Having the courage and conviction to develop a vision and implement it is paramount.

It remains to be seen if the Wal-Mart will be built and if so, what long term impact it will have on the area.

Meanwhile, the city election nears, with two of the current aldermen; Kelly Russell (D) and Michael O'Connor (D) running for reelection, two running for mayor; Karen Young (D) and Shelley Aloi (R) and one; Carol Krimm (D) intending to run for Maryland state delegate next year.

Will their vote on this issue influence voters when they go to the polls this Fall?

Stay tuned.


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