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Wal-Mart decision delayed 

Queen Anne's County officials hope that Wal-Mart will use the next four months to find a new place -- not necessarily on Kent Island -- to build its next store. 

The Court of Special Appeals last week granted the developers of the controversial plan a 120-day delay of a hearing to allow them to work out their differences with the county Board of Commissioners. 

The county had asked the court to overturn a Circuit Court decision forcing it to approve Wal-Mart's proposed location on the southern side of Route 50, an area that many consider the gateway to the county. 

Board President George O'Donnell, D-Queenstown, said the postponement was Wal-Mart's idea, and the commissioners agreed to it late last month. 

"We think it's a reasonable approach," he said. "(The postponement) will allow Wal-Mart time to find an alternative site. We don't know where that site will be, but anytime you can resolve a problem without going to court, that's a good thing." 

However, Wal-Mart officials wouldn't confirm that they would consider other locations. 

"I have to refrain from going into specifics right now, but we want to resolve this. We want to work with the county, not against it," said company spokesman Daphne Davis Moore. 

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, has already invested more than $1 million toward building a 285,000-square-foot shopping center called Kent Commons in a field on the south side of Route 50. 

The project would include the 154,000-square-foot Wal-Mart, a 123-room hotel, a conference center and a sports bar. 

The commissioners, acting as the Sanitary Commission, approved sewer and water service in November 1999. But residents rose up against the big-box discounter, and the commissioners switched their position in May 2000, stating that the store would use too much of the local wastewater treatment plant's capacity. 

The Kent Narrows-Stevensville-Grasonville Wastewater Treatment Plant in Stevensville can handle only 230,000 gallons per day. The Kent Commons project would consume 25 percent of that available capacity. 

In September 2000, county Circuit Court Judge John W. Sause sided with the commissioners. 

But in April he flip-flopped, and ruled that the Sanitary Commission had no legal authority to "pick and choose" application for sewer service. 

Mr. O'Donnell said he hopes by mid-May the commissioners and Wal-Mart will reach an agreement on the store's location. If not, he said they will have to return to court. 

Stan Ruddie, a leader of opposition to the Bay Bridge site, said Wal-Mart could take over vacant outlet stores at Kent Narrows. 

"There are people I work with who don't want it anywhere, but I don't necessarily agree with that," he said. "There are places that it could go -- that's been our argument all along." 

Published January 09, 2002, The Capital, Annapolis, Md.
Copyright © 2002 The Capital, Annapolis, Md.

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