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County Councilman Calls For A Halt to Wal-Mart Plans

Berliner: 'We simply must do better' than the proposal for Pike Center.

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 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 , “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 . 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 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 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.

Jeff Hawkins November 17, 2011 at 02:00 PM
Yes...........please put a "halt" to this.
Audra November 17, 2011 at 02:14 PM
This is absolutely the wrong fit for a big box! I don't think you could get much more bike and pedestrian un-friendly than this.
Theresa Defino November 17, 2011 at 03:13 PM
Based on the letter, what he actually asked them to was more to pause than to halt the project. His threat of a text amendment says to me that the county currently really has no way to say no to Wal-Mart. I also want to point out that Councilmember Berliner is against the big-box bill that Council President Valerie Ervin has introduced, and although he told me why, I disagree with his position. If the county can't stop Wal-Mart on the Pike (and it CAN stop at at Aspen Hill) then something like the big box bill is definitely needed. Wal-Mart plans to build 6 stores in D.C. and is being actively recruited by D.C. Mayor VIncent Gray. That's a mistake in my opinion. Wal-Mart's low pay, part-time schedules, no benefits, sex discrimination, lack of career advancement opportunities (among other well-documented issues) will simply institutionalize poverty among the workers and residents in the areas where it locates.
Jim Coyle November 20, 2011 at 06:24 PM
Another major concern with Walmart at this location is the City of Rockville's efforts to redevelop the Pike areas just north of this location. It's recently published Rockville Pike Vision attempts to create a more pedestrian focued Pike. Walmart represents the complete opposite of this vision with its 30-40 thousand additional car trip a day. Although chances are slim for a truly effective pedestrian outcome, Walmart in this location will completely negate that possibility.
madmilker November 21, 2011 at 03:11 PM
Did you know Wal*Mart puts less than 5% foreign in all their stores in China.... They made a port deal in Mexico.... They hired an experienced lobbyist, field organizer and media relations strategist.... and with Retail not making NOTHING..... what is the real reason a 5 and Dime from the Ozarks did this... oh! they even ask to see the blueprints of all 57....oops! 50 state capitol building.... and just in the past few months closed the office in Russia but hired a Russian.... Do you know who put the star in the name Wal*Mart? Sam didn't....he was dead.
MocoLoco November 21, 2011 at 03:53 PM
Why did the reporter "[sic]" Berliner's letter? Aside from this--what if WalMart built a store and nobody shopped there? The 99%-ers out there are buying tons of Built-in-China crap from WalMart. Manufacturing jobs get sent overseas, decreasing the need for labor here, which suppresses wages here. Duh. We are doing this to ourselves.
Sean R. Sedam November 21, 2011 at 04:46 PM
MocoLoco: You're right, the "[sic]" should not have been used. It's been removed.
Theresa Defino November 21, 2011 at 06:39 PM
@mocoloco--some of us 99% are NOT shopping at Walmart and resent your crass and uninformed comment. You should review the testimony at the Council Council meeting and see who testified FOR Walmart--including one Potomac resident who said his wife now has to drive too far north for a Walmart.
MocoLoco November 21, 2011 at 07:12 PM
Meh. Potomac goes al the way up to the border of Rockville City. Those people probably just claim Potomac status based on their zip codes. They're really Rockvillians. Back to the point--Walmart wants to come here because the area is full of actual and potential Walmart shoppers. (If the economy worsens a little, Walmart will attract former Target shoppers!) But, if we weren't Walmart shoppers, the store would be a failure. Just imagine!

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