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2001-09-07
Hagerstown, MD. Wal-Mart Loses Appeal on Traffic

Another community Slam-Dunks Wal-Mart! Sprawl-Busters in Hagerstown , Maryland report that at the end of July, a Washington County Circuit Court Judge ruled in favor of the City Planning Commission's denial of plans for a Wal-Mart Supercenter near Funkstown. Judge W. Kennedy Boone ruled in favor of the Planning Commission and against Aiken, South Carolina.-based Wyatt Development. Boone said the commission has the authority to decide whether the zoning is appropriate for the proposed project and to consider off-site traffic issues, which were the basis for the commission's December decision. Wyatt tried to demonstrate that the city's ruling was arbitrary or capricious. "I applaud the judge for taking a stand," Mayor William M. Breichner told the Herald-Mail. "I think the Planning Commission is right. I'd like to have Super Wal-Mart on the tax base, but the location compounded problems for our neighbors, the Town of Funkstown and the burden of traffic."We're just ecstatic," said Pam Newhouse, a Funkstown resident who leads a citizens group formed in opposition to the Wal-Mart project.Wyatt had 30 days to file an appeal. Wyatt's plan called for building a 207,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter plus a 30,000-square-foot retail building on 31.5 acres The Planning Commission members ruled in December that the project is too large for the C-2 commercial district zoning, and that the project would bring too much traffic to the area.Wyatt argued the Planning Commission did not have the authority to rule on whether the zoning was appropriate, or to consider off-site traffic issues. Judge Boone said, "The Planning Commission has the statutory and vested authority, in addition to reviewing the site plan, to also review traffic as a matter of public health and safety as well as to review the C-2 zoning as a prerequisite to the formal and final issuance of a zoning permit. In a project of this magnitude the commission would have been remiss not to look at potential traffic impact."

What you can do: Developers want local officials to believe that if they turn down a project, they will end up losing in court. This Maryland case is just another reminder that local boards can prevail in court if they have solid findings based on issues like traffic or stormwater runoff, or other site plan problems, and relate those problems to specific criteria in the comprehensive land use plan for the town, and the zoning code. In this case, the land WAS zoned commercial, but the court ruled that the city's concerns over traffic were a legitimate exercise of its local police powers, and those concerns were directly related to the huge size of this project. City officials sometimes think they will be outgunned in court, but this case is one of a number of cases cited on this website where the developer's appeal was rejected.










 
 
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