In a unanimous vote Thursday night, the Board of Aldermen approved a rezoning request for the Frederick Town Mall property. The decision reclassifies the site from mixed use to general commercial. That clears the way for Wal Mart, which has expressed an interest in the property, to obtain the necessary permits to construct a new store.
The owners of the 39.38-acre parcel plan to demolish the Mall between Boscov's and Home Depot, and construct a new store which will be located between those two retailers. No timetable has been developed.
The once-thriving Frederick Town Mall has been in decline for the past few years. Some years ago, the owners applied for mixed use zoning in order to create retail space with some residential units. But that idea fell apart when the recession hit.
"This is a great opportunity for the city, its residents, its business owners and property owners," said Attorney Dave Severein, who represents Rockwell Capital, the owners of the Mall property. "Somebody is willing to come in and invest millions of dollars renovating this property and bringing it back to vitality."
But there was opposition expressed to the rezoning, most of it was against Wal Mart. "The developers, the owners of the property, have promised the city all sorts of magnificent, wonderful, economic opportunity, but there's been no proof," said Nicholas Bouquet, who asked that the City's Department of Economic Development do an economic impact study on the plan.
Dan Arnazeeni said Wal Mart is not the best choice for this property. "For the nearby residents of the Golden Mile, there are already many discount retail options: KMart, Burlington Coat Factory, Ollie's, Giant Eagle, Weis Market and soon a GMart. If Wal Mart comes in, then those companies are put at risk. More than likely, you've just pushed the unwanted vacancies down the road," he said.
But there was support expressed for the rezoning, and Wal Mart. Gary Brooks, who owns Barley and Hops, but lives in the western end of Frederick, said Wal Mart is willing to make some changes to the area. "Living on the west side, driving on the road everyday going to my business in the county, it's disgusting to see this empty thing," he said.
Rudine Thomas says she likes shopping at Wal Mart, and wants one close to her home. "This is something that we really need to happen, and also to get more people to come to visit our part of the city. I don't appreciate going to Route 85 to Wal Mart over there. It's nice to go over there, but I'd like to have something in my neighborhood."
The Aldermen took a vote on the rezoning after making some minor wording changes in the conditions, which deal with such issues as internal circulation and external interconnectivity and parking fields, building design and new construction and sustainable environmental features.
The vote also covered proposed rezonings for the Conley Farm at 199 Baughmans Lane, and the Cawley Property west of the Independent Hose Company on Baughmans Lane. Both parcels will go from low density residential (R4) to medium density (R8) residential.
The ordinance outlining these zoning changes take affect July 28th.