Another Home Depot proposal has wound up in the dumpster. The Baltimore Sun reported today that a planned Home Depot just outside of Easton, Maryland has been scrapped. After several years of bitter debate, and legal action, Home Depot has decided not to continue its appeal of Talbot County’s decision to reject the store. Two years ago, in what the Sun called “a stunning election upset,” voters in Talbot County tossed out County Councilors who had revised the zoning ordinance to allow big box home improvement stores access to land. The in-coming Councilors passed size limits on buildings to prevent large retailers from locating in unincorporated, rural districts. Home Depot went to court, but today gave up the chase. Lowe’s, which is a blue version of Home Depot, has been trying to move its current store in Easton to a larger site on the edge of town, but that project also has run into opposition. The newspaper article quotes one developer as saying that he has seen more and more resistance from residents, politicians and local businesses in the past few years to big box retailers. “The majority of the people in the county – and the majority of our County Council – feel that such large buildings should not be strewn out over the countryside,” the newspaper quoted Hope R. Harrington, vice president of the Talbot County Council, as saying. “I think what the trend has been is these stores just keep getting larger and larger and they sort of overwhelm everything around them.” A Home Depot spokesman almost sounded resigned to the defeat. He said, “we don’t like to go where we’re not wanted, obviously. The onus is on Home Depot to show that we can blend in. These communities have worked really hard to achieve the kind of look or achieve the kind of lifestyle that they want. It’s not that they don’t want Home Depot – in many cases they just don’t want Home Depot at this particular location.” This November, Talbot County voters will go to the ballot to decide whether or not to overturn the county’s dimensional limit. The ballot question was not prompted by local voters — but by Lowe’s. “We’re very heartened by the community’s response,” a Lowe’s PR person said. “That turns it over to the people.” But two years ago voters in the county rejected an effort by Home Depot to allow home improvement stores in “limited industrial” zones, preferring to keep industrial land for industrial purposes. Despite Home Depot’s spending on the campaign, they lost the vote. County residents complain that companies like Home Depot and Lowe’s are trying to rewrite local zoning by-laws to fit their corporate needs.
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