Fitting Walmart into space and minds of Rockville not a done deal

Whether the retail chain comes to Rockville, Md. is still up for debate in the Montgomery County council. (AP)

WASHINGTON – Plans to bring a Walmart store to Rockville Pike in Montgomery County gets continued scrutiny.

Discussing the zoning and logistics of the project was part of a work session in Montgomery County committee meetings Monday.

But the deal is far from done. There are obstacles that inevitably come with a project this size. Aside from gaining public approval, there is a question of space.

The store is slated to wedge into a block currently occupied by a strip mall on Rockville Pike near the Twinbrook Metro.

“What we’re trying to do is have much more of an urban look and feel consistent with the fact that this is a store within 1,500 feet of a Metro station,” said Montgomery County Councilmember Roger Berliner.

The strip mall is home to popular Rockville lunch stop Bagel City. There is no planning underway yet as to where the stores in that mall would relocate.

But Councilmember Nancy Floreen, chair of the county’s economic development committee, is adamant residents want stores like Walmart.

“Because right now we’re all about creating new jobs not sending them away,” Floreen said.

Walmart plans to open six stores in Washington late this year. Those stores have been met with mixed reaction from small business owners and residents.

The chain details the jobs and benefits its investment will provide the Washington neighborhoods on its website.

Demands that the proposed Rockville store meet wage and benefit requirements remains an issue under discussion. County councilmember George Leventhal has led the effort to get a bill that would force the big box store to come up with a benefits and pay package specific to Maryland.

“I’m not trying to threaten them or put them in a hammer-lock,” Leventhal said.

“I just hope they’ll provide competitive wages and a competitive benefits package. That’s the kind of thing they did in D.C., I hope they do the same thing here,” Leventhal added.

But Floreen is concerned the push will present road blocks too early in the process.

“We need to be careful about sending message we’re going to make it harder for business to find a place in Montgomery County,” Floreen said.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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