Wheaton development coalition seeks support of urban district committee -- Gazette.Net


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This story was corrected at 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 21, 2012. An explanation follows the story.

In its first appearance before the Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee, the Coalition for the Fair Redevelopment of Wheaton asked the committee on Nov. 13 to help voice and support requests for the county’s commitment to help small businesses during the planned redevelopment project for Lot 13.

The coalition composed of small business owners, residents and nonprofits has been seeking since September 2011 a written pledge from the county to the businesses that will face “a difficult time” maintaining business in the next two to three years as a result of the project, said Ash Kosiewicz, the coalition’s lead organizer.

The coalition asked the advisory committee to send a letter to County Executive Isiah Leggett stating the coalition’s requests for that pledge and a “construction mitigation plan,” as well as showing the committee’s support.

Should these requests be fulfilled by the county, they would give community businesses a “sense of security,” Kosiewicz said.

Henriot St. Gerard, chair of the advisory committee, said that the coalition’s requests have been directed to the Economic Development Subcommittee, which will meet on Dec. 3 to discuss them and the letter among other matters from the last meeting.

“The importance of WUDAC is they just have a laser focus on the urban district,” said Kosiewicz.

The coalition has also appeared before the Wheaton Redevelopment Advisory Committee, he said.

The urban district advisory committee’s meeting on Nov. 13 included an opportunity for area business owners and residents to respond to the results of the 2012 Wheaton Small Business Survey, which included concerns regarding the potential effects of various redevelopment projects.

The coalition expressed through Barbarian Comics employee Raymond Rose its concerns that the Lot 13 project one of the planned redevelopment projects could negatively affect parking, rent affordability and security around businesses concerns that were generally echoed in the Small Business Survey.

It requested in its response that the county, through the construction mitigation plan, create a transition parking plan, fund a bill for a Small Business Assistance Program, and inform the public about changes, among other things.

The coalition’s response contained only “pieces” of what the group is requesting from the county, Kosiewicz said.

Ultimately, the coalition wants the opportunity to “sit with the county to work out a written pledge,” he said, which would help small businesses think of the redevelopment project as “an opportunity, not a threat.”

Speaking generally on the concerns raised in the survey, County Councilmember Nancy Navarro said in an email that the council has already “taken steps” to address them.

“We have provided funding for a parking study, formed the Small Business Assistance Program to provide financial and technical assistance, and formed the Wheaton Public Safety Working Group to address public safety issues,” Navarro said in the email.

Correction: A previous version of the story incorrectly stated the name of the Coalition for the Fair Redevelopment of Wheaton as the Coalition for the Fair Development of Wheaton. The story also quoted Ash Kosiewicz, the coalition's lead organizer, as using the phrase "sting power" in reference to the Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee. Kosiewicz denies using the words “sting power”.