Eight and a half years. That’s what it took residents of Chestertown, Maryland to slam dunk Wal-Mart. Here’s a field update from Brenda Horrocks and Phil Hoon, who helped lead the years of opposition to Wal-Mart: ” Last night, after many hours of testimony and deliberations, the proposal for a 107,000 square foot Wal-Mart store on the outskirts of Chestertown was rejected by the Kent County Planning Commission. After eight and a half years of public debate, there are many who are responsible and deserve credit for this outcome, all of whom should be acknowledged. We applaud the Planning Commission for its steadfast adherence to the rule of law as specified in the Kent County Comprehensive Plan and the Zoning Ordinance. They deserve and command the respect of the citizens of Kent County. We also acknowledge the tireless support of the many residents of Kent County who contributed the efforts necessary to engage and argue the relevant issues. Their activities are exemplary of public participation at its best. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of many elected officials — including Governor Glendening, Congressman Gilchrest, Delegate Walkup and Mayor Bailey. Their willingness to take a stand on this controversial matter confirms that important issues can be addressed on a bi-partisan basis in the best interests of a community. We are indebted to the U.S. National Park Service, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Preservation Maryland for their invaluable participation. Their independent and unbiased support for the preservation of this unique and fragile community was compelling and persuasive. The real winners in this saga are Kent County, the integrity of its laws and processes and the free market. The stated desire of the community to preserve and maintain its local culture and quality of life has been affirmed and the importance of a free and competitive market has been ratified. There are no losers from this result. An important conclusion to be realized from this event is that Wal-Mart, like all other commercial ventures, is welcome in Kent County. But in return for that opportunity, they must be willing to compete on a level playing field and not selfishly cause irreparable economic, traffic or environmental impacts. Those are the rules that apply to one and all.
Brenda and Phil added this footnote: “The Maryland Court of Special Appeals had remanded the Wal-Mart site plan to our Planning Commission. The specific ruling was that they had to address and give “findings of fact” with regard to the impact of this development on our traffic and the economic impact on existing commercial centers and businesses. This came after we appealed the Planning Commission’s approval of the site plan in 1995 (we appealed that decision to the Kent County Circuit Court where we were upheld and the case was remanded to the Planning Commission – Wal-Mart then appealed the Circuit Court’s remand to the MD Court of Special Appeals). The case was heard by our Planning Commission on June 14th. The hearing lasted 14 1/2 hours and stretched over three evenings. Approximately 7 1/2 hours of testimony was given and the other 7 hours was the Planning Commission’s deliberation. In the end they decided that this site plan should be denied because of the impact it would have on the economy of the market area. They did feel Wal-Mart was needed in this community, but only a Wal-Mart of reasonable size – say 60,000 square feet. For further information on this victory, email [email protected]