Every once in a while, we come across a first-term elected official who means well, a good guy who has potential, but who somehow gets off track, who goes down a road, takes a wrong turn and can’t find his way home. Four years later, he’s out, a promising career in government ended early.
Councilman Julian Jones, representing Baltimore County’s District 4, has his heart in the right place. He sincerely wants to protect commerce and neighborhoods in Randallstown from the negative impact of an Owings Mills Mall redevelopment plan that would succeed only at the expense of established business along Liberty Road.
He had the town meetings. He introduced Bill 85-16 to stop Kimco Realty from anchoring its “Owings Mills Town Center” with a new Walmart Supercenter – just 3 miles from the Supercenter in Brixmor’s Liberty Plaza.
And then he zigged when he should have zagged. Someone, we’re pretty sure it was Kimco, made up some phony-baloney argument that Bill 85-16 was unnecessary and hurtful to Kimco’s objectives. And Councilman Jones, against the best interests and loud voices of his constituents, bought it. Despite support for his legislation from other Council Members, County Executive Kamenetz and residents in the affected areas, Jones pulled his bill before anyone had the chance to consider it.
Why did he do it? Probably because he thought he was helping Kimco redevelop a property that has been a vacant hole in the economy of his District. Everyone agrees that the old mall property needs redevelopment – just not at the expense of established commerce nearby. He trusted Kimco and that was proably a mistake.
Brixmor, the large, national shopping center development company that owns Liberty Plaza, is now selling its Walmart Supercenter property and lease because they’ve seen the writing on the wall. Click on the link below to see the listing.
The screenshot below is “Actions” item number 2 from page 65 of the County’s 2020 Master Plan. That’s the Master Plan that is currently in effect. The “Mall” the authors are talking about is same property Kimco is turning into an uninspired big box strip center, quite possibly to be anchored by a Walmart Supercenter.
Kimco’s plans for its Owings Mills Town Center have little or nothing in common with the Hunt Valley Town Centre. Suffice it to say that current versions of Kimco’s plan completely disrespect this objective. And yet they were approved by the County in May of 2015 without opposition by Councilman Jones – who also did nothing to reverse the County’s “limited exemption” that continues to silence public input.
The people don’t want what Kimco is planning. Businesses and neighborhoods in Randallstown and elsewhere will be hurt. It’s a mess that only Councilman Jones can resolve on behalf of the people he represents. So what is he doing about it?
In the past couple of weeks, every since Brixmor listed its highly lucrative Walmart Supercenter property and lease for sale, people have been calling and emailing us about replacing Councilman Jones by defeating him in the 2018 Democratic Primary. This hasn’t been idle chatter by political amateurs. No. What we’re hearing now is serious planning by and for qualified candidates to oppose Councilman Jones.
What’s happened all of a sudden? Simply put, people have had it with the Councilman’s frequent reassurances and believe his lack of performance on the single issue of Kimco’s plans, not to mention other disappointments, is enough to beat him.
Pulling Bill 85-16 was bad enough, but then giving Kimco three months since he pulled the bill? Three months for what? And then Brixmor lists its Walmart property and lease for sale and he still does nothing?
Residents and local business owners are done wondering why Councilman Jones is being so nice to Kimco at their expense. They’re not quiet because they no longer care or because they feel comfortable with Councilman Jones’ lack of action. They’re quiet because they’ve given up on the Councilman and are now actively making plans to replace him.
In case you’re wondering why we’re not being more specific, it’s because, while we’re aware of some of these plans and candidates, confidentiality prevents us, as it should, from naming names. That said, as far as we can tell, dissatisfaction with Councilman Jones is widespread, intense and, from his perspective, on the verge of being beyond recovery.
The good news for Councilman Jones is that he just might be able to silence all this opposition by one simple move. Reintroduce and pass Bill 85-16. The bill protects established commerce along Liberty and Reisterstown Roads without limiting Kimco’s plans except to rule out a new Walmart Supercenter on the old mall property. That’s all it does. And it’s a bill that will pass, probably with unanimous Council support.
Time for Councilman Jones to stand up on behalf of his district’s economy and neighborhoods. Kimco will get along just fine without him. Do the right thing which is, we believe, his instinct, and take the wind out of the sails of his opponents. Then work like crazy for the next year to rehabilitate his standing among his District’s voters.
Councilman Jones, it’s not about working with big business even if it means sacrificing the support of your constituents. That’s the wrong turn you took. You need to work with your constituents even if what’s in their best interests offends a developer or two.