- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 26, 2006

A group of Burtonsville residents is pressuring a shopping center landlord to keep a farmers’ market in town and big-box retailers out.

Chris Jones, president of Bethesda Management Co., hopes to revive the Burtonsville Shopping Center, at Columbia Pike and Spencer-ville Road, with an anchor and several smaller tenants.

Mr. Jones would not speculate on the size of the anchor tenant, saying there is “a great deal of uncertainty.” He has preliminary approval from Montgomery County to demolish the site and erect a new building with a 100,000-square-foot anchor store and smaller tenants — depending on the tenants he is able to bring to the site, according to the Montgomery County Department of Park and Planning.

Some area residents are concerned that one tenant in particular — the Dutch Country Farmers Market — will lose its lease. The market, which has produce, meat, dairy, bakery, candy and craft stands as well as a restaurant, is operated Thursday to Saturday by Amish and Mennonites.

“We are trying to preserve the sense of community that you have here,” said Shelley Rochester, a retired speech pathologist and organizer of the Coalition to Save the Dutch Market. “Almost everybody I speak to has been going there ever since it was built. … They have a very, very loyal following.”

Mrs. Rochester has gathered more than 1,000 names and e-mail addresses for the Coalition to Save the Dutch Market, she said.

Mr. Jones has promised residents that he will not put a Wal-Mart or Kmart on the site, but left other big-box retailers, such as Costco or Target, on the table, drawing more ire from residents.

“Our concern is if an oversized, big-box store moves in there, it would be inappropriate to our community,” Mrs. Rochester said, adding that Burtonsville has a small-town feel that would be eliminated by a big-box retailer.

“The traffic would increase tenfold and … it’s a stone’s throw from an elementary school. There will be kindergartners playing in the area just yards from trucks pulling in, loading and unloading merchandise,” she said.

But Mr. Jones says any concern about future tenants at the shopping center, which also includes a Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskin Robbins store, Montgomery County ABC Liquor Store and a CVS pharmacy, is premature.

“We have signed no new tenants and we have not given the Dutch Market notice [to vacate],” he said. “We have a very good, very long relationship with the Amish; that will continue.”

All of the tenants at the shopping center are on short-term leases.

“We’re not going to renew on a long-term basis until we know what’s happening,” Mr. Jones said. “Most have been on short-term leases for the past 10 years.”

Mr. Jones said he is not sure when the anchor or other tenants will be signed, saying it could take months or years.

“The state we’re in, some people are trying to take advantage of it to create controversy and conflict,” he said. “We have a very good relationship with the tenants and we expect that to continue.”

The site proposal was approved by the Department of Park and Planning. The county’s planning board issued an opinion letter in agreement in December.

• Retail & Hospitality appears Mondays. Contact Jen Haberkorn at 202/636-4836 or [email protected]

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