A representative of the Fredericktowne Mall said redevelopment of the struggling mall could happen within a year if the city were to change the land’s zoning, but city officials aren’t rushing to do that.
“To try to do a lifestyle center here will not work,” David Severn, a Frederick lawyer who represents DLC Management Corp., the mall’s owner, told the Frederick Board of Aldermen at a meeting Wednesday. “... Please do not delay this process. We have an opportunity here, if it can be zoned general commercial, something can happen here within a year.”
The mall is currently zoned for mixed-use development, which requires a residential component, but the owners want general commercial zoning, which would allow for big-box retail stores.
The zoning for the 40-acre mall site was part of a workshop discussion held by the aldermen Wednesday to discuss potential zoning changes throughout the city. The Frederick Planning Commission recommended the change from mixed use to general commercial.
The five aldermen will make the final decision, but a date for that vote has not been scheduled.
Severn said the management company can only work to improve the area under general commercial zoning, and that the change to mixed use, done by a previous owner, was misguided for that area.
“Their standpoint is the only thing that’s going to work is general commercial, and that’s what’s been there forever,” Severn said. “The experiment with mixed use ... It went belly up. There’s no chance of it being built, no chance of being financed.”
Some of the aldermen expressed concerns over switching the zoning, which would give the city less control over what is built in that space, according to Joe Adkins, the city’s director of planning.
Alderman Carol Krimm (D) said she wants to see more discussion about the changes to the area and what residents want to see built there before zoning is changed.
Alderman Michael O’Connor (D) said he was reluctant to make a change in light of the small area plan for the Golden Mile, the economically troubled stretch of U.S. 40, which has been in the works since 2010 and would provide guidelines for development for the entire corridor. He said he didn’t want to make a change that would ruin the plans.
“We don’t want to go through a process where we have citizens actually involved and cut their knees out from under them with the largest parcel of the plan,” he said. “... We have to move with caution.”
Some residents are also opposed to the possibility of change.
Diana Halleman, the president of the Golden Mile Alliance, a group that advocates for changes in the area, and a member of Neighborhood Advisory Council Five, said in an interview that neither of those organizations has taken an official position on the mall’s zoning, but she and other residents have concerns.
Halleman said she recently sent a letter to the alderman, asking them not to change the zoning for the area.
“All the people that came out for those meetings for the small area plan talked about a vision for the community, and that was not this,” she said. “Sometimes the developers have the upper hand — they have the lawyers. We’re just people who live there. We want what we want down the road. We know how we want it to look.”
Halleman said the developer’s plan, which might include a big-box type retail store, wouldn’t serve the neighborhood.
“It’s just very frustrating,” she said. “I’ve talked to the developer. He doesn’t live here, he lives in New York. He has no interest in this community. ... We’d like somebody with an interest and vision for this community to be here. I’d like to see them sell it and let someone who’s interested in doing something special have it.”