Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Leaders, residents still seeking a site for Dutch market

Many hope to keep store part of their community

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As the Dutch Country Market prepares to move from its location in the Burtonsville Shopping Center after 20 years, community leaders are working to ensure it stays local.

The market has been operating on a month-to-month lease since last summer, said Sam Beiler, one of the market’s owners who runs a meat and a dairy stand.

The market will remain at its current location until BMC Property Group, which owns the shopping center, is ready to begin renovations for new tenants, Beiler said. He expects that to happen some time next year and understands the decision. ‘‘The shopping center needs to be updated,” he said.

The market owners have hired a broker to look for a new location, Beiler said, adding they would like to stay in Burtonsville and time the move so the market could open immediately in its new location once it leaves the shopping center.

Christopher Jones, president of BMC, confirmed the month-to-month lease but declined to give a timetable for the market’s departure. ‘‘They’re going to be there as long as I can keep them,” he said, adding that no tenants have been lined up for a renovated shopping center.

Jones said the market owners are being ‘‘responsible” and planning for ‘‘the worst-case scenario” with their search for another location, a process BMC is aiding. ‘‘We have a very, very nice relationship and are working together to find them a new home,” he said.

Finding a commercial space in Burtonsville big enough to accommodate the market and a large parking lot will be difficult, Jones and community leaders said, and trying to change the county’s zoning laws if needed may take time the market does not have.

Still, ‘‘community leaders are working around the clock to keep the market in Burtonsville,” said Stuart Rochester, chairman of the committee that drafted the Fairland Master Plan.

Rochester’s wife, Shelly, head of the Coalition to Save the Dutch Market, said progress has been made in talks with the market’s owners, county officials and local property owners. ‘‘We feel we’re getting closer to finding a Burtonsville location,” she said. The Rochesters are hoping plans for a new Burtonsville location for the Dutch market will be announced this summer.

Citizens Involved, a civic group based in Burtonsville, has placed signs in the market alerting customers to the market’s status and has received calls on the matter from as far away as Alexandria, Va., said the group’s founder, Eileen York. The group is also looking for a local attorney to work free for the market’s owners and serve as their representative when they are not in town.

The loss of the Dutch market would mean not only a loss of customers in Burtonsville’s business district, but also a part of the area’s identity, York said.

‘‘They put the ‘ville’ in ‘Burtonsville,’” she said of the market’s tenants. ‘‘They’re the heart of this town.”