- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 13, 2003

HANOVER, Md. (AP) — The development boom sparked by the building of megamall Arundel Mills is causing some headaches in Anne Arundel County.

Neighborhood schools might not have enough room for new students. Roads might not be wide enough to handle traffic. Builders want solutions, fast.

County planners acknowledge that the development onslaught caught them off-guard, but they say there is time to prepare.

Residential development between the Baltimore-Washington International Airport and Fort Meade is likely to take 10 years or more to complete. Meanwhile, developers might help pay for school additions or a new school, as well as road improvements.

For residents such as Marie Cook, who moved into Fort Meade in 1987, what’s certain is that a small city, with a town center that offers super sales, is in the works.

She hopes her new neighbors — and the county — won’t forget who was there first.

Residents, some of whom still live in houses their farming forefathers built decades ago, have long known that growth was on the way. Large tracts have been zoned for heavy industrial and commercial uses for decades.

Over the years, residents have fought proposals for a NASCAR racetrack, Legoland and a chicken-rendering plant.

More recently, they have witnessed the creep of airport businesses into their back yards and watched homeland security firms flock to offices near the National Security Agency at Fort Meade.

“The growth in this area has been astounding, and it’s scary,” says Roger Fox, president of the Harman Civic Association and a resident since 1983. “It’s a tidal wave, and it sometimes feels overwhelming.”

With the arrival of Arundel Mills, one of the state’s largest retail centers, residents readied themselves for hordes of shoppers.

Their fears were not unfounded: The mall draws about 500,000 visitors a week. It also employs more than 3,000 people and generates $72 million a year in local tax revenue and wages.

Since opening in November 2000, the mall has expanded to 1.4 million square feet, adding such major stores as Bass Pro Outdoor World. Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, a 1,000-seat restaurant with jousting contests, is expected to open this summer, as is a satellite campus of Anne Arundel Community College.

Muvico Egyptian 24 Theaters, the pyramid-themed cinema at the mall’s east entrance, brings in 60,000 visitors a weekend and recently beat movie houses across the country for weekend box-office sales.

Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens is proud of the mall, and its cash flow. Although she initially balked at the Mills concept, Miss Owens bought into it as a means to beef up her suburban county’s tax base.

The mall pays $2 million a year in property taxes.

“Arundel Mills has been an enormous job generator, a destination for travelers and residents, and a significant contribution to what I’ve come to call the county’s ‘Gold Coast,’” Miss Owens said in a written statement.

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