Aldermen are considering a rezoning request for the Frederick Town Mall Property.
A proposed rezoning of the Frederick Town Mall property was discussed during Wednesday's meeting of the Board of Aldermen. But most citizens wanted to talk about Wal Mart.
The city is considering a request from the owners of the Mall property to rezone the nearly 40-acre parcel from mixed use to general commercial. This would clear the way for Wal Mart to apply for the permits it needs to build a third store in Frederick. The area between Boscov's and Home Depot would be demolished to make way for the retail giant.
Opinion was mixed on plans by Wal Mart to build a new store. Steve Holman, who collected signatures on a petition in opposition to Wal Mart, was strongly against the rezoning. "It will create job losses, and will close stores; plain and simple. The economic health of Route 40 will suffer from more empty store fronts. This is not the solution we need," he said.
But business owner Melissa Parsley recounted her fond memories of the Frederick Town Mall. She said this rezoning will bring in a retailer where people want to shop. "The mall property needs to be rezoned and allow for a large retailer to come in to keep those people there," Parsley said.
But Kerry Larson from Thurmont, whose town commissioners have kept Wal Mart out, questioned the wisdom of a third Wal Mart in Frederick. "Why are we having a third Wal Mart here," she said. "Economically, it does not make sense. Whose going to support a third Wal Mart? Where are they going to come to shop at a third Wal Mart? Because it's pretty? You can put lipstick on a pig; it's still a pig."
But Regine Presgraves, a small business owner, testified in support of the rezoning, and Wal Mart. "I don't want my community to have the reputation of a rundown, deserted town. I want the Golden Mile to re-establish itself with the liveliness it once had, and ask that we do not let this opportunity pass us by," she said.
Perhaps the most dramatic testimony came from Dr. Julio Menocal, who has a medical practice along the Golden Mile which serves low income patients. "When people say the Golden Mile is going to fill up with the riff raff, the cheaps, and people of low income, what's this arrogance? I make a living on them. They need to place to eat, to buy food at a reasonable price, to buy a shirt for $8.00. This shirt's from Wal Mart," he stated emphatically. He was shouted down during the testimony, some claiming his shirt was made in China. Mayor Randy McClement intervened and reminded the audience to respect Dr. Menocal's right to speak.
Other speakers complained that Wal Mart does not pay a living wage, and treats its employees unfairly.
The Aldermen spent a considerable amount of time going over the conditions for approval of the rezoning. They're expected to make a decision on the proposed reclassification on Thursday, July 18th.