Are we making progress? The answer is “Yes,” but with reservations.
Once again, the room was packed. Standing room only, even after bringing in extra chairs. If there were 255 people at Monday’s meeting, which is the number Councilman Jones gave us, there were 300 or more people at the meeting last night at the Randallstown Community Center.
Did the Councilman get off track? Yes. Too many times, he allowed, sometimes encouraged digressions that came up as people rose to their feet to take the microphone.
Did he, honestly, talk too much while saying too little of substance? Yes again and it was noticeable. During one response by the Councilman, a woman leaning up against the wall turned to the stranger standing next to her and said, “By the time he’s done talking, that new Walmart will be built already!”
More than once, Councilman Jones told everyone that Council attorneys had cautioned him about saying too much that might find the county embroiled in legal action, presumably with Kimco, the owner of the Owings Mills Mall property. But people either didn’t care or weren’t buying it.
The good news was that Councilman Jones plainly said that legislation restricting store size was the most powerful tool at his disposal. He said he’s fully prepared to use it, to introduce that legislation, but not until after he talks to Kimco at a meeting scheduled for next week. (Apparently, his concerns about the legality of legislating a store size restriction that he described at Monday’s meeting are no longer a factor.)
Why the delay? Why not introduce a bill now before Kimco seals its deal with Walmart for a new Supercenter that will close the Liberty Road and Reisterstown Road Walmarts and other stores that depend upon Walmart customer traffic?
This is where we – and many people in the crowd – think Councilman Jones is being way too careful. Mind you, there’s nothing timid or fearful about Councilman Jones. Not even close, but, for whatever reasons, he wants to negotiate with Kimco. At one point, he went so far as to say that just the threat of legislation may be sufficient to force Kimco to its knees, figuratively speaking. His point was that Kimco would agree to stay out of the Walmart Supercenter business in return for him NOT introducing store size restrictive legislation.
But then that deal begs the question, “What is Kimco really planning for its Mall property?!” If not for a new Walmart Supercenter, why do they want unlimited store size?
Back to the meeting…
At one point, to counter crowd talk pushing legislation without further delay, he asked everyone to pick one, just one of the following choices…
1. Keep the Walmart Supercenter on Liberty Road.
2. Prevent a Walmart Supercenter from going on the Mall property.
3. Pass a bill that prevents ANY super large stores – not just a Walmart Supercenter – from going on the Mall property.
As multiple choice questions go, this wasn’t a good one. For one thing, the first and second choices are interdependent. The only way to keep the Liberty Road Walmart is to prevent a Supercenter from opening on the Mall property.
As for the third item, let’s ask ourselves what stores a 60,000 SF or 80,000 SF restriction rules out? Costco and Target Greatland (Target’s version of a Walmart Supercenter) have already told Kimco “No.” 80,000 SF would rule out a Lowe’s, but then nobody wants one given that it will hurt the Home Depot on Liberty Road. What does that leave? A Walmart Supercenter? No, because that’s the deal Councilman Jones hopes to negotiate with Kimco. So what’s left, a BJ’s Warehouse? Even if BJ’s is interested, it’s not what most people want to see on the Mall property.
The point is, a 60,000 SF or 80,000 SF restriction doesn’t hurt or constrain Kimco from all sorts of strip center and, hopefully, more creative options. So what is it that Councilman Jones is negotiating? Why is he waiting to introduce legislation that will seal the deal, with Kimco but, more importantly, with his constituents who want and who are demanding that Kimco come up with a better plan?
To that end, please read and sign our petition while you’re here – and reach out to Councilman Jones to share your concerns and suggestions. Here’s how you can contact him…
District 4 Councilman Julian Jones
Towson Office Number… 410-887-3389
District Office Number… 410-887-0784
Email Address… Council4@BaltimoreCountyMD.gov
If you’re interested, click here to see a really helpful article from the Institute For Local Self-Reliance entitled, “Store Size Caps.”