BOWIE – Wal-Mart hosted an open house at the DuVall Village Shopping Center in an effort to comply with requests from the Prince George’s County Planning Board and District Council to interact with the community, but some residents say they still do not want a store to be constructed here. Wal-Mart plans to build a […]
BOWIE – Wal-Mart hosted an open house at the DuVall Village Shopping Center in an effort to comply with requests from the Prince George’s County Planning Board and District Council to interact with the community, but some residents say they still do not want a store to be constructed here.
Wal-Mart plans to build a 78,000 square-foot store in the Bowie community by the intersection of Annapolis Road and Glenn Dale Road. But last year, after the Planning Board passed a detailed site plan with conditions, the District Council chose to send it back to the Planning Board for further revisions. In March, the Planning Board again approved the detailed site plan, but commissioners asked Wal-Mart to do a better job of communicating with the community after hearing complaints from residents.
Wal-Mart held an open house at the site, providing opportunities for residents to speak with experts with knowledge on specifics about the project available for questioning from residents.
The company consulted the developer, DDR Corporation, before having the meeting in the space, according to Nina Albert, director of community affairs for Wal-Mart.
Jennifer Dwyer, a local resident and activist who has been leading a group of residents who oppose the Wal-Mart project, said the open house had very little effectiveness and is not what the community is expecting out of the company.
“I think I, and a lot of people in the community, expected that the format was going to be more listening to the community’s concerns and working toward addressing them,” Dwyer said. “That’s not what this was at all. I think a lot of people in the community were disappointed by that.”
Experts told residents about a variety of subjects about the project, such as an extension of the building, how the project will meet stormwater management requirements and how Wal-Mart will conduct job outreach. The company opened the building from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and expected more than 200 residents to appear, according to Albert.
People still have concerns about things like whether the store would be a 24-hour store, parking issues and traffic issues, Albert said. The company wants to be transparent with the community, she said, and the open house was an effort to provide residents with information.
“This is an attempt to answer some questions for people who still have them. It’s clear that people still want information and we will continue to provide it,” Albert said. “This was not intended to be deceptive.”
The reason why Wal-Mart chose an open house format instead of an open meeting, Albert said, is because different people have different concerns that can all be addressed in a two hour span by different experts. An open meeting would not present the same opportunities, Albert said, because of time constraints and personnel.
While some citizens are not satisfied with the answers Wal-Mart is providing, others, such as Marlene Savage, said they would the company into the community. Savage, a board member for the Vista Gardens Homeowners’ Association, said she welcomes a Walmart store.
“I want a Walmart. I’m not going to lie and say I don’t. I want to find ways to save money when shopping. I may not be happy about all the things that Wal-Mart does but I don’t have a problem,” Savage said. “I know people are concerned about the traffic and concerned about the crime, but we can’t put the crime on Wal-Mart.”
The county is supposed to take care of some of the problems people are complaining about, Savage said, like traffic issues and security. Some of these things have nothing to do with Wal-Mart, she said.
“I think the concern about the traffic is a real concern because it is a concern of mine. But we need to get on the people that we voted in about that,” Savage said. “That’s a county problem, not a Wal-Mart problem. We need to make them do a traffic study before the store is approved.”
The traffic is bad in the area, Savage said, but the county can do things like widen the lanes and widen the main artery of traffic to make traffic more passable. It would be a difficult process, but it would be worth it according to Savage.
Clemmie Strayhorn, a citizen in the surrounding community, said the store is just not the right fit for where it is being placed. The store will be placed in the middle of affluent communities, Strayhorn said, and that is not the place for a “big box” store.
“It’s going to be a nightmare. It’s not the right fit. It’s the wrong place for a big box store,” Strayhorn said.
Strayhorn would not have a problem with a Walmart store coming into the community if they offered jobs that the residents in nearby communities could use and paid their workers enough to “get by,” he said.
Strayhorn also said Wal-Mart has been deceptive with the community, he said, and he has an issue with that.
“It appears to me that Wal-Mart has been shady from the get-go,” Strayhorn said. “What they’re doing now they should have done it two or three years ago. I believe this is something to try to satisfy the county council. I don’t feel good about this at all.”