County Councilman Roger Berliner is vowing to block a Wal-Mart proposed for the Pike Center, saying the store is a bad fit for Rockville Pike.
Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Potomac stated his opposition to the store in a letter sent Monday to Chevy Chase-based JBG Rosenfeld. (The letter can be found in the PDF at the right of this article.)
The developer is seeking to build an 80,000-square-foot Wal-Mart at the retail center between Twinbrook Parkway and Randolph Road. JBG reportedly plans to request that the site be rezoned from commercial to mixed-use in 2013 in order to allow 200 to 250 apartments to be built there.
“I remain deeply concerned that your proposed development of the site with an 80,000 square foot single story Walmart 1500 feet from the Twinbrook Metro is inconsistent with the best practices of transit oriented development,” Berliner wrote. The council has worked, through the White Flint sector plan, “to begin transforming” Rockville’s main commercial thoroughfare into a more pedestrian- and bike-friendly and transit-oriented street, consistent with the new urbanism model, he wrote.
“In my view, your project would lock in for years to come a key parcel in the next phase of Rockville Pike’s redevelopment, White Flint II, into the old suburban, car dependent model on a corridor where we are making transit a priority,” Berliner wrote. “We simply must do better than a single story, traffic generating, stand-alone big box retail establishment on this site.”
Berliner wrote that if developers move forward with plans for the store before the second phase of the White Flint sector plan is in place he would “explore a zoning text amendment that would preserve our county’s ability to ensure that this site is developed consistent with transit oriented development and the new vision of Rockville Pike that White Flint I and White Flint II will help realize.”
The council is expected to complete work on the White Flint II plan in 2013. The Pike Center store could open by late 2013 or early 2014, The Washington Post reported.
There is just one Wal-Mart in Montgomery County—in Germantown. JBG’s plans to open a Wal-Mart in the shopping center just south of the Rockville city limits is one of two proposals by the nation’s largest retailer to expand downcounty. Silver Spring-based Lee Development Group is proposing a Wal-Mart on the former BAE Systems site at Aspen Hill Road and Georgia Avenue. The Aspen Hill store would open in 2013.
Berliner’s letter is the latest reaction by the council to Wal-Mart’s plans.
Last month, County Council President Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring introduced legislation to require large retail stores locating in the county to work with three or more recognized civic organizations on a “community benefits agreement” that would address issues from traffic in the neighborhood to employee wages.
Earlier this year, Ervin came under fire from the county employees union for her participation in meetings with Lee Development Group on the Aspen Hill proposal.
Unions have long opposed Wal-Mart, which announced last month that it would no longer provide health care benefits to part-time workers.
An Oct. 5 editorial in The Gazette said Wal-Mart "is not entirely in conflict with the long-term vision" for Aspen Hill, but that the proposed store would require a master plan amendment. It could take up to three years to receive approval from the County Council for the amendment, the editorial said.