Supervisors hope to suggest alternate Wal-Mart sites

Southbridge residents opposed to plans for a Wal-Mart near Dumfries were told their only viable option to stop it likely lies in the efforts of two county supervisors who plan to meet with company representatives Thursday.

Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Sean T. Connaughton and Supervisor Maureen Caddigan, R-Dumfries, told residents at a public meeting Monday night they will work to persuade Wal-Mart to chose an alternate site for the store.

Representatives of Wal-Mart Inc. and Legend Properties were no-shows at the meeting, organized by the Save Southbridge Coalition — a grassroots group of Southbridge residents rallying against Wal-Mart’s plans to build a store in front of their subdivision.

John Meyer, of KLNB, Inc., the broker for Wal-Mart, said company officials are willing to meet with residents but were unable to attend the meeting held at the Ferlazzo Building. A Wal-Mart spokesman could not be reached Monday.

About 100 Southbridge area residents met and aired concerns about traffic, crime and the decrease of property values they fear a Wal-Mart store will bring.

Several people blasted Southbridge developer Legend Properties, saying they were promised an upscale retail development on the site.

“The overall feeling is one of betrayal,” said Southbridge resident John Berry. “They promised us a Reston-like community while negotiating with Wal-Mart behind our backs.”

The proposed site, which sits on 25 acres between New Cherry Hill Road and Wayside Drive, is zoned for commercial use and was touted by Legend Properties as the site of a “retail campus.”

Residents said they envisioned a cluster of small shops and businesses — not a big box store.

Caddigan said she and Connaughton sent letters to several Wal-Mart officials, saying the county wants to work with the company and welcomes a new store, but not at the Southbridge site.

They have plans to meet with company representatives Thursday and will propose several alternate sites in the county, Caddigan said.

Some people said they wanted to attend or picket outside the meeting but the supervisors declined to say where and when it would be held.

Many frustrated residents repeatedly asked how they could stop Wal-Mart from coming and were told that the property is zoned for commercial use and the county cannot initiate a zoning change.

Aside from negotiation, “there’s nothing we can do,” Connaughton said.

Mike Anderson, vice president of Legend Properties, recently said that he believes Wal-Mart is an appropriate business for the site.

He said Wal-Mart has an option on the property until Dec. 31, but Connaughton and Caddigan said the option expires May 30.

The proposed Wal-Mart will be close to 143,000 square feet and is expected to draw an estimated 9,650 cars each day, according to plans filed with the county Planning Office.

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