County officials ask Wal-Mart to look elsewhere Southbridge site can’t handle added traffic, residents fear

Wal-Mart Inc. representatives who met with county officials Friday agreed to take a closer look at an alternative site for their next store, but a company spokesman said they remain committed to a site on U.S. 1 that has Southbridge residents up in arms.

Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Sean T. Connaughton, R-at large, and Supervisor Maureen S. Caddigan, R-Dumfries, presented Wal-Mart officials with five alternative sites and the company agreed to consider 60 acres on Va. 234.

The site, just east of Brittany Park, is undeveloped.

“It’s a big commercial site and its quite unsightly now, so it could be a real win-win situation,” Caddigan said

Wal-Mart spokesman Keith Morris said the company will consider the county’s suggestion, but said they previously looked at each of the alternative sites and found the Southbridge location along Jefferson Davis Highway north of Dumfries to be the most viable.

The 25-acre site, which sits at the entrance to Southbridge subdivision, is under contract and the company hopes to start construction by the end of the year. The store is planned to open in 12 to 18 months, Morris said.

Wal-Mart’s plans have incensed many Southbridge residents, who say they expected a smaller, upscale development in front of their neighborhood.

They are concerned that U.S. 1 cannot handle the traffic the new Wal-Mart will bring an estimated 9,650 cars per day, according to a county planning report and worry the store will be unsightly and drive property values down.

Although the site has long been zoned for commercial development, Southbridge residents said developer Legend Properties led them to believe a variety of small shops, services and restaurants would eventually go on the land.

Morris said the Wal-Mart will be upscale and will not generate any more traffic, light or noise pollution than a strip of smaller stores the residents envision.

He said the new store will be “unlike any Wal-Mart in Virginia,” with more sophisticated architecture and painted in a variety of earth tones instead of the typical blue.

“An upscale Wal-Mart is an oxymoron,” said Joe Lamendola, one of more than 100 residents who attended a community meeting Monday organized by the Save Southbridge Coalition.

Organizers invited representatives of Wal-Mart and Legend Properties to share their plans out but no one from Wal-Mart or Legend attended.

Caddigan said she stressed the importance of meeting with residents to Wal-Mart representatives Friday and they agreed to sit down with members of the community.

The meeting will take place May 29, although the time and place was not available Friday afternoon.

The planned Wal-Mart store will be about five miles from the existing location on Worth Avenue, near Potomac Mills. It will relieve the Woodbridge store, which has a larger customer base than it can handle.

Most of the store’s shoppers come from areas south and the Southbridge location is expected to absorb 10 to 15 percent of the traffic, Morris said.

The Southbridge Wal-Mart is the fourth store the company is planning in the Prince William area. In addition to stores in Woodbridge and Sudley, Wal-Mart is planning another store near Manassas.

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