Aspen Hill, MD. County Legislature Wants Limit on Big Box Stores
Wal-Mart's urban growth strategy involves pitching smaller stores -- some as small as 15,000 s.f. to "fit" into land-scare city centers. But one county in Maryland is trying to send a message to Wal-Mart that big stores are going to run into bigger regulations.
According to an article in today's Washington Business Journal, several members of the County Council in Montgomery Council, just outside of the Nation's Capitol, are proposing some restrictions on Wal-Mart that the giant retailer will not like.
County Council President Valerie Ervin has introduced legislation that could require stores large than 75,000 s.f. to sign a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) that would addresses issues of building design, scale, hours of operation and hiring local residents.
Montgomery County has had a long-standing interest in regulating the impact of big box stores. In November of 2004 the County Council approved a measure that provided for a higher level of review for any retail store in certain commercial zones whose floor area exceeds 120,000 s.f. and includes a pharmacy and full-line grocery store. Such a facility had to obtain a special exception from the County Board of Appeals.
In a press release dated October 11th, the Council announced that it will introduce Bill 33-11 that would require large retail stores that intend to locate in the County to enter into a community benefits agreement with three or more recognized civic organizations. The benefits could come in a wide variety of formats, but without the agreements, Bill 33-11 would restrict the business' access to financial assistance from the County's Economic Development Fund and other County programs that assist new retail operations.
In addition to the sponsorship of President Ervin, Bill 33-11 is cosponsored by Councilmembers Nancy Navarro, Craig Rice and Hans Riemer. The County said the legislation "would allow large retail stores to enter community benefits agreements that could include hiring practices and training programs for County residents, including potential preferences or incentives to hire residents who live within a certain distance; providing assistance to community organizations and programs; and contributing to affordable and workforce housing."
A public hearing on Bill 33-11 is tentatively scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 8.
What you can do: Earlier this month, a developer from Silver Spring, Maryland, the Lee Development Group, announced it had an agreement to build a 118,000 s.f. Wal-Mart in Aspen Hill, Maryland. The project, however will need an amendment to the county's master plan, which could be time-consuming.
Readers are urged to email President Valerie Ervin at Councilmember.email@example.com with the following message:
"Dear President Ervin, I writing in support of Bill 33-11, which would require big box stores to negotiate community benefit agreements. I would also urge you to put a cap on the size of buildings, so that no store could exceed 75,000 s.f. A flexible cap could also be introduced that limited store size by parcel size.
For example, on a ten acre parcel, a store could not exceed 75,000 s.f. On a five acre parcel, no larger than 35,000 s.f. On a two acre parcel, no larger than 15,000 s.f.,and on a 1 acre parcel or less, no larger than 8,000 s.f. In addition to adopting a CBA requirement, it's time to put limits on store scale to match the neighborhood it is in."