Some Germantown residents took action today against the controversial Chelten Plaza development at the corner of Chelten and Pulaski avenues.
The partially state funded development has been at the center of a neighborhood storm since the plans for the project became public earlier this year. At the heart of neighbors’ opposition to the development, which is under construction now, is the decision to replace a full service grocer, the old Fresh Grocer, with the discount chains of Save-A-Lot and Dollar Tree.
Several residents, mostly from the neighborhood group West Central Germantown Neighbors and the new informal protest network Germantown Cares, strung up a banner across the street from the development that reads “No Dollar Tree, No Save-A-Lot.”
Alexander Russell, a candidate for the presidency of the West Central Germantown Neighbors, says he is involved because he sees these stores as destructive to the neighborhood.
“There are too many low end stores in Germantown,” he said, and called the products at a store like Dollar Tree “basically trash.”
Russell also dismissed a 2000-plus signature filled petition in favor of the development, which Save-A-Lot branch owner Shawn Rinnier commissioned several weeks ago. Russell thought the survey of local Save-A-Lot customers would be inherently biased.
Many who signed the petition lived in Germantown and surrounding neighborhoods. The Greater Germantown Business Association also commissioned a petition against Chelten Plaza that resulted in roughly 1000 signatures from Germantown residents.
Thomas Sharpless, another member of WCGN said he wants to see more upscale stores in Germantown, and isn’t worried about the threat of a vacant lot if the neighborhood succeeds in stopping the development.
“I would like to see [the developer] be forced to sell it so a decent developer can come by,” he said.
At a joint meeting of the two groups Tuesday, about 25 people discussed several other ways to act in opposition to the development.
Yvonne Haskins, a local lawyer, will work on appealing the project’s zoning permit, arguing the June 8 approval is not valid. Haskins says it violates a special zoning overlay that prohibits variety stores on Chelten Avenue.
Organizers hope to see a large turnout at the zoning board hearing that will likely result from Haskins’ appeal.
Haskins and some other participants in these direct actions are also members of Germantown Community Connection, the community group that recently voted to negotiate with Chelten Plaza developer Pat Burns on several aspects of the plan. (See related link to the right.)
GCC president Betty Turner emphasized these direct actions by WCGN and Germantown Cares were in no way sponsored by GCC.
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