Wal-Mart Inc. filed a site plan for a future store on U.S. 1 near Southbridge on Wednesday and met their new neighbors — Southbridge residents determined to stop the retailer from building in front of their subdivisions.
Several Wal-Mart representatives spoke with members of the Save Southbridge Coalition to discuss concerns surrounding plans for a 205,000-square-foot store on 25 acres between New Cherry Hill Road and Wayside Drive.
In a meeting last week with Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sean T. Connaughton, R-at large, and Supervisor Maureen S. Caddigan, R-Dumfries, Wal-Mart officials agreed to consider an alternative site on Va. 234 but said Wednesday they were committed to the Southbridge location.
“[They said] their plans are set in stone and they’re going to go ahead and build a Wal-Mart,” said Barb Connelly, one of the Southbridge residents who met with Wal-Mart officials.
The store, which will be less than five miles from the Wal-Mart on Worth Avenue in Woodbridge, will be built in two phases.
The first phase will consist of a 145,000-square-foot store, which will likely include a McDonald’s restaurant. After a few years, Wal-Mart plans to expand the store to 205,000 square feet, adding a gas station and an oil-and-lube service center.
The area is zoned for retail, but the gas station would require a special-use permit granted by the Board of County Supervisors. Caddigan said she will not support the project.
Wal-Mart representatives met with county planners Wednesday afternoon and discussed landscaping, buffering and other ways the store can be less obtrusive, Caddigan said.
Wal-Mart spokesman Keith Morris could not be reached Wednesday, but recently said the Southbridge Wal-Mart will be upscale, with more sophisticated architecture and painted in a variety of earth tones instead of the typical blue box style of older Wal-Mart stores.
Southbridge residents who met with Wal-Mart representatives said they were open to their suggestions and concerns and agreed to make some concessions, such as conducting a noise study and constructing a sound barrier wall behind the store.
But it wasn’t enough for John Dittmer, founder of the Save Southbridge Coalition. He said he will continue to lead the fight to stop Wal-Mart through environmental and legal avenues, if possible.
“We’re going to try to basically wear them down and throw everything we can at them,” he said.
Dittmer was charged with arranging the residents’ meeting with Wal-Mart representatives and decided the press should not be present. He invited nine Southbridge residents, who met at the A.J. Ferlazzo Building.
The meeting had not ended by 10 p.m. Wednesday.
He said Wal-Mart representatives agreed to meet with residents again and show them architectural renderings of the future store.
Staff writer Kate Bissell can be reached at (703) 878-8068.