Kenneth Stevenson: Will Hereford soon be closed for business?

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As President of the Hereford Community Association in Baltimore County, I have strived to strengthen the community voice in the public process. In the HCA, we are accountable to our neighbors’ concerns and preferences. The collaborative dialogue between residents, private entities, and elected officials is essential to the character and well-being of a community. We have recently seen successful corporate initiatives in communities across the county and state. That makes it all the more frustrating when an elected official refuses to cooperate with and respond to community interests.

Governor Larry Hogan has declared our state “open for business,” and I could not agree more. Business brings jobs, economic growth, and lower prices as a result of competition. We should encourage business, provided that the private entities work with the local community to build a mutually beneficial relationship, and Royal Farms has done just that in its proposal for a store in Hereford. Unfortunately, Councilman Wade Kach has made up his mind to prevent it. Today he will vote on a request to rezone the proposed site from commercial in order to block the Royal Farms store.

In Hereford, we suffer from a gas monopoly, and our neighbors are sick of paying higher prices or driving out of town for gas. A Royal Farms store would not only lower prices by creating competition, but it would incentivize the current Exxon station to improve its safety measures, which lag far behind the Royal Farms proposal.

The Hereford Community Association has worked with Royal Farms on behalf of the community to assuage residents’ concerns and ensure the highest safety standards. Through this process, we have reached a proposal that surpasses the regulations set by the Maryland Department of the Environment, and has been approved by the community

Councilman Kach’s likely rezoning of the property stands in direct opposition to the desires of the current site owner and the broader community, and the community has tried to convey this to him. I have personally met with the Councilman on the topic, and his office has received hundreds of phone calls and emails requesting that he keeps the current zoning and allows Royal Farms to open.  However, Councilman Kach has remained resolute in his plan to downzone the property.

The Councilman’s disappointing efforts to block Royal Farms are antithetical to the pro-business, free market platform he ran, and was elected, on. It bears mentioning that the vocal minority who oppose the Royal Farms store are campaign donors and political allies of Councilman Kach, including the owners of the Hereford Exxon and the Sparks Glencoe Community Association, whose constituents do not suffer from the same high gas prices.

It is this sort of “pay to play” politics that has encouraged the rise of outsider politicians across the country. The Hereford community represents a large voting bloc in the 3rd councilmanic district, and we voted overwhelmingly for Councilman Kach; however, we do not vote blindly. If Councilman Kach ignores his constituents in favor of a few donors, he will lose the very base that supported him.

Kenneth Stevenson is the president of the Hereford Community Association.

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