Newport News, VA. Planning Commission Rejects Wal-Mart Rezoning.
So far, so good in Newport News, Virginia. Local officials have handed Wal-Mart a major setback this week, but local residents are not celebrating yet. Here's an update to our entry about Newport News that we posted on June 3rd: "A community group has formed and has had 2 community meetings to rally support and get information out. Traffic and environmental issues are among the key concerns. The community group organized an anti-zoning walk that took place at the local Farmers Market and all four corners of the major intersection closest to the site of the proposed Wal-Mart. Citizens showed support from 9am -12pm with signs, informational sheets, and many cars that "honked for the neighborhood".The continuation of the Newport News Planning Commission was held on July 20th. The turnout was huge. Information was presented about the species of Salamander and Rattlesnake that are present on the land, concluding that there was no viable habitat on the land for the
salamander and that there was an insufficient breeding population of rattlesnakes in the long run. The results of the city prepared traffic study were presented concluding, just as the Wal-Mart hired traffic engineer had, that the intersection near this site can handle the traffic that Wal-Mart would add. The intersection currently performs at level "C" on a scale of "A" - "F" with "A" being the best. "C" is considered acceptable. The addition of Wal-Mart would drop the performance to "D" with noticeable congestion, but could be brought back up to "C", the developer claimed, by adding a traffic light at the new intersection for Wal-Mart and by retiming the lights at both intersections to work together. The natural buffer zone on the border with the residential land to the west was increased from 40' to 60'. A 6' tall black, vinyl-coated chain link was also added along that border to deter foot traffic onto neighbors property. An entire row of parking that would have faced the neighborhood was removed to add to the buffer. The developer agreed that there would never be an entrance to this Wal-Mart other than the one proposed from Hampton Roads Center Parkway, so that residents of the neighborhood to the northwest would not have to worry. A crosswalk of a different color - to visually set it apart from the road- would also be added across all 5 lanes to Wal-Mart (2 incoming, 3 outgoing) in order to maintain the bike/walking path that currently follows next to the road. It was also indicated that the "Framework for the Future" Comprehensive Plan for the city had been revised in 2001, as an amendment, to indicate future plans that this land become Community Commercial, changing it from the Residential Commercial that was decided upon when originally creating the document. Then citizens who wanted to speak were each given up to 3 minutes to speak their part. When it came down to the end, the Planning Commission voted 8-1 AGAINST rezoning this land to commercial, but the battle has not ended yet. The matter now will be brought to City Council on August 9th. The City Council will hear the recommendation made by the Planning Commission, but the Council can overturn that recommendation depending on all that they take into consideration. The citizens will continue to organize against the rezoning and hopefully the City Council will vote the right way - vote for what the citizens want."
What you can do: If the Newport News City Council votes to rezone this land, against the strong recommendation of the citizens on their own Planning Commission, citizens still have an important card to play. They can appeal the rezoning to the courts, and derail this project for six months to a year. For local contacts Newport News, contact email@example.com.