by Chelsea Boone
A community benefits agreement bill bringing big box stores to Montgomery County, and the proposed county youth curfew were met with opposition at a November 2 town hall meeting in Wheaton.
The community benefits agreement — which would bring big box stores such as Wal-Mart, Costco and Target to Montgomery County — was met with concern by some audience members. The goal of the proposal, as listed in the bill, is to create negotiations between businesses and organizations for the benefit of the community.
“In the county we want a balance of small business and large business,” councilman Phil Andrews said.
Councilman Craig Rice, co-sponsor of the bill, lives in the only district in the county with a Wal-Mart and says that it works. It is a big box store amongst small businesses that do well, he said.
Councilman George Leventhal said he wants to protect the small business economy of Wheaton. He referred to the bill as, “shockingly impractical” and said that the bill creates a structure that does not exist anywhere else.
One voiced concern regarding the big box stores was the jobs that will be provided and the quality of them. However, it was stated that the bill is still in the early processes and not everything has been determined.
The other hot topic issue was the proposed youth curfew that would prevent those under 18 from being out after 11 p.m. on weekdays and 12 a.m. on weekends.
Rice, a curfew supporter, said he sees the curfew as a protection piece for the youth and that he does not see why a child has to be outside pass curfew hours outside of the provisions already listed in the bill.
Andrews voiced his opinions against the curfew, saying that it is unjustified and that gang related crime and youth arrests have gone down.
“Silver Spring is a safe place,” Leventhal said. “Crime will occur no matter how safe the place is.”
Andrews and Leventhal have proposed a loitering and prowling bill as an alternative to the curfew, which does not target a specific age group, and instead holds any person accountable who is loitering or prowling in a public place and causes suspicion. There will be a public hearing on the bill on Nov. 15.
The redevelopment of Wheaton was another topic that was discussed at the meeting. There were audience members who were concerned that the town would radically change but council members assured them that the plan was a 20-year plan and that the town would not change over night.
Saving the Wheaton library was also discussed at the meeting and the council members said that the library and the local recreation center will come together as one facility. Progress on the project was said to be seen within the next three to four years.