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Planners switch Walmart stance
Planning Commission votes on Walmart, again


Date published: 8/21/2009

BY ROBIN KNEPPER

The Orange County Planning Commission reversed itself last night, effectively voting to recommend denial of a plan for a Walmart Supercenter in the Wilderness Battlefield area.

The commission split 4-4 on a motion to recommend approval of JDC Ventures' application for a special-use permit. Because the motion did not pass, it is the same as a denial, County Attorney Sharon Pandak explained to the commissioners.

"It's unfortunate for it to go forward without a clear vote, because it doesn't send a clear message to the Board of Supervisors," she said.

Supervisors will hold their own public hearing on the matter Monday night. They are not bound by the commission's recommendation, and three of the five have said they will vote to approve the permit.

The hearing and vote were the Planning Commission's second this summer. On June 25, it voted 5-4 to recommend approval of the permit, with certain conditions.

Last night's vote means the conditions it wanted will not be sent to the supervisors for consideration after all.

On July 27, just hours before the scheduled Walmart public hearing before the supervisors, county officials were notified that the local weekly newspaper had failed to run one of the two legally required notices for the earlier Planning Commission hearing.

As a result, the Planning Commission public hearing had to be redone, and the hearing before the supervisors was rescheduled.

Last night, commissioners Donald Brooks, Dave Kovarik, Will Likins and Elliot Fox voted to recommend approval. Terry Apperson, Nigel Goodwin, Walter Smith and Tom Bundy voted against.

Commissioners Bill Speiden and Cory Redifer were not present. Speiden voted to recommend approval at the first meeting but was in the hospital last night.

"This will become a traffic-filled commercial city at our eastern gateway," Apperson said in arguing against the project.

Brooks said county residents "are overwhelmingly supportive of Walmart." Smith agreed that residents want a Walmart but said his constituents don't want it at the proposed location.

Almost two-thirds of the 32 speakers at last night's public hearing voiced concern about the proposed 138,000-square-foot store on a 51-acre site a quarter-mile north of the intersection of State Routes 3 and 20 and the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.


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