Friday, May 28, 2010

Who Say WL Needs A Grocery?

One of the more provocative bloggers around these parts, Frank Hecker, serves up some food for thought on Wilde Lake's lack of a traditional grocery:

I’m just a na├»ve outsider from Ellicott City, but this is something I’ve never understood. I go to Wilde Lake Village Center all the time, and it doesn’t exactly strike me as a "food desert". In particular, I regularly go to shop at David’s Natural Market, which certainly has food for the table, has milk for the kids, and may even have diapers for all I know (I’ve never checked).

So why exactly doesn’t David’s qualify as a grocery store according to [county council candidate Alan Klein] and others? Is it because it isn’t a real grocery store (doesn’t have national brands, has a limited selection)? Because it’s not the right kind of grocery store (patronized primarily by "outsiders", too "crunchy" for the people of Wilde Lake)? Because it’s not a basic grocery store (which I presume is a code word for "cheap")? I don’t mean to be snarky here, I’m genuinely interested in what’s going on here (beyond just nostalgia for the Giant that was and is no more).

I’m not an expert on the economics of retail development, but I presume that if the economics were favorable for a traditional supermarket at Wilde Lake then the Giant would still be there.

Hecker goes on to do some rough math on how much it would cost to subsidize David's prices to make them more affordable to people who cannot easily travel to cheaper options -- and calculates it would be less than Howard's Healthy Howard initiative.

Now, I’ll fess up: I’m writing here partly with tongue in cheek. ("What, you’re going to tax us more so that people in Wilde Lake can buy tofurkey at David’s! The very idea!") But I’m also trying to make a serious point: If the county can’t simply wave a magic wand and make a grocery appear in Wilde Lake (as I and others believe), and if there’s really a serious question of social justice here (as Alan Klein claims), then Klein and other who agree with him owe it to the taxpayers of Howard County to actually put a price tag on solving the problem that they claim exists, and make the case to the voters that paying that price is worth it in order to make Columbia and Howard County the sort of place we all want it to be.

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