UPPER MARLBORO—The Prince George’s County District Council made no decision on the site plan for a Walmart superstore on the east part of Clipper Hill Way off of Oxon Hill road but will have 60 days to come back and make a decision. Previously, the county’s zoning hearing examiner sent the plan to the District […]
UPPER MARLBORO—The Prince George’s County District Council made no decision on the site plan for a Walmart superstore on the east part of Clipper Hill Way off of Oxon Hill road but will have 60 days to come back and make a decision.
Previously, the county’s zoning hearing examiner sent the plan to the District Council in August 2014 with a recommendation of denial.
The store, if built, would be constructed just north of Oxon Hill High School and John Hanson Montessori School. The store would be 100,310 square feet and would have products for food and beverage, gardening and department store needs. Parents from the two schools have opposed the project since the plan first became public.
“This case is coming to with a recommendation of denial from the zone hearing inspector. It would be detrimental to the adjacent properties,” said Tom Lockard a planner coordinator for the Prince George’s County Planning Board.
According to Andre Gingles , an attorney representing Wal-Mart, said the company believes the decision to deny the site plan has been made from assertions and not facts that have come from witnesses.
“(The decision) essentially breaks down to three things,” Gingles said, “that there is some inherent danger in high school students using sidewalks along an industrial roadway, that the view from the elementary middle school looking at board-on-board fence and landscaping is adverse, and that unloading noise is going to be adverse.”
There would be no difficulty for students crossing a driveway, Gingles said, because he has seen them crossing the highway themselves already.
“We found no particular difficulty in them knowing how to cross a driveway,” Gingles said.
There has been no testimony explaining why a board-on-board wooden fence would be detrimental to the Montessori School, Gingles said, and truck deliveries would only range from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. and would not have an impact on school hours.
Nicole Nelson, a former president of the Parent-Teacher-Student Association at John Hanson, said the parent body of the school has adamantly opposed placing a Walmart store in the area.
“We think it is an inappropriate use of the property,” Nelson said. “We are concerned with increased traffic, pollution and crime as well as the negative consequences that might arise from Walmart’s policy of encouraging overnight camping on their property and insufficient parking with lot security.”
Nancy Sierra, a senior at Oxon Hill High School and a part of the school’s student government association, said the student body also opposes the construction of a store because they believe it would disrupt school events such as the homecoming parade. Students also believe a Walmart store create dangers for students, she said.
“It seems as though it is being put on the high school students that we know what we’re doing when we cross the street, but we are a late school. We don’t get out until 4:10,” Sierra said. “And you also have to consider the afterschool activities that we have…and then you have to consider basketball games. What happens if I’m using Clipper Way to walk home? And then it’s night time and here comes a driver who can’t see. I get hit and it’s my fault because I should have known better? I disagree.”
Councilwoman Mary Lehman said she believes the concerns of the community are very real and should not be dismissed when considering placing the store in the area.
“Saying, in quotes, that she said, ‘I believe’, is being very dismissive of, what I think, are her valid concerns—especially about pedestrian safety,” Lehman said. “Anyone that has ever walked anywhere and had to navigate traffic might reach these same conclusions.”
Lehman also said she has concerns about building another store when Walmart already has three stores in the county.
“How far away is the Clinton Walmart store? How far away is the Bowie Walmart store? How far away is the Landover Hills Walmart store?” Lehman said. “In the state of Maryland there are 45 Walmart stores but in Prince George’s County this would be the fourth store. That would put us at the top of the list. How much is enough? I don’t know if there is any right answer for that.”
Bob Ross, president of Prince George’s County chapter of the NAACP, said the organization support Walmart and the construction of a new store of the job opportunities it would create.
“I have come to believe that jobs and economic sustainability are key to Prince George’s County residents,” Ross said. “The community deserves jobs and livable wages to provide for our families and live to our full potential.”
With the county’s minimum wage increase, Ross said, the value of the jobs the Walmart store will bring also increase.
“The new minimum wage removed any concerns that I had about the store,” Ross said.
Nina Albert, director of public affairs and government relations for Wal-Mart, said the company is pleased with the support they have received from local community leaders.
“Walmart has been seeking approval for this site since 2011 and remains committed to the Oxon Hill community and to offering residents expanded access to quality goods and superior shopping service,” Albert said. “We hope to continue working with the county and local residents so that our store can employ 300 new associates and provide the community with convenient access to a wide range of goods at affordable prices.