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2008-06-08
Kent County, DE. “No Way I Would Want Wal-Mart Next To My Home.”

A developer wants to build a 225,000 s.f. Wal-Mart Super Center on 22 acres on U.S. Route 13 in between Dover and Cheswold, Delaware, plus a 25,000 s.f. shopping center next to the Wal-Mart. The two developments would be located near a residential development on Simms Woods Road. There's a Wal-Mart discount store in Dover, Delaware on North DuPont Highway just minutes away from this site, and a Wal-Mart supercenter in Camden, Delaware about 8 miles away. This is land that until December of 2004 was zoned agricultural conservation/light industrial. In December 2004, at the request of a developer, the Levy Court agreed to rezone the land to general business to accommodate a big box store that was unnamed. But local residents opposed to Wal-Mart filed a lawsuit, and a Chancery Court judge ruled that the Levy Court had illegally approved the rezoning by resolution instead of by ordinance. The Levy Court went back and approved the rezoning in May 2007. In February of 2008, Wal-Mart bought 22 acres of the land from the developer. This past week, the developer, Cheswold Village Properties, presented their Wal-Mart supercenter plans to the Kent County Regional Planning Commission. According to the Dover News Journal, the Commission "dressed down" the developer for not being better prepared. The Commission said they were not satisfied with the developer's answers to concerns over flooding this huge project would cause for homeowners on Simms Woods Road. Commissioners also wanted Wal-Mart to assure them that this store would not be the typical 'big blue box' Wal-Mart. "First of all, there's no way in the world I would want this next to my home," Commission Vice Chairman Ken Edwards told the developer. The Commission also told Wal-Mart that they wanted an earthen berm build to block the view of home owners of the project. Commissioner Paul Davis said he wanted to see completed drainage plans and architectural rendering of the buildings' façade. "This thing is not going to be rushed through the county," the News Journal quoted him as saying. "I like Wal-Mart, but I want it done right for the people."

What you can do: The people on Simms Woods Road don't want Wal-Mart "done right." They don't want it done at all. This supercenter is almost the size of five football fields -- totally incompatible with the surrounding neighborhood. When homeowners bought their property and built a home, this land was zoned for agricultural conservation or light industrial. These homeowners had every right to believe that they would not end up being neighbors to a Wal-Mart supercenter. There is no way to buffer the lights and the noise and the traffic that this massive project with generate. Given the fact that there is a supercenter already within an easy drive, and a discount store just minutes away, the County should not allow 33 acres of open land to be paved with concrete for this project, which brings no added value economically to the community. The residents have clearly spoken their feelings on the project by taking it to court. Now the Regional Planning Commission needs to protect the investment these homeowners have made. A vote on this site plan could happen at the Commission's next meeting on June 12th. In 2007, Kent County began updating its Comprehensive Land Use Plan. The Vision Statement for Kent County says its goal is "to preserve the rural and community character of Kent County by encouraging the most appropriate use of land... " The county wants to preserve farmland, manage growth and provide a safe, sustainable environment." Readers are urged to email Bill Holmes, Chairman of the Kent County Regional Planning Commission at Maryellen.gray@co.kent.de.us with this message: "Dear Chairman Holmes, I applaud you for saying you wouldn't want a Wal-Mart supercenter next door to your home. Neither do the homeowners on Simms Woods. The overarching goal of the County's Comprehensive Plan is to protect your agricultural industry and natural resources from encroaching development. The themes of growth management and provision of adequate infrastructure are apparent throughout the plan. A huge, big box supercenter on Route 13 is incompatible with such a plan. This is not just about what the façade of the building looks like. Your Plan also says that a broad base of manufacturing and higher end office employers in the county is needed to assure good paying jobs and an expanding tax base. As for retail projects, your Plan emphasizes "promoting reuse and redevelopment of existing sites are a priority of the County to prevent sprawling nonresidential spaces and maintain attractive existing communities... while the retail and service segment is critical to a success of a local economy, it is not the most economically beneficial aspect. Over time, these businesses alone cannot maintain a successful local economy without also expanding the industrial and office space segments.' This Wal-Mart project is suburban sprawl. There is a supercenter 8 miles away in Camden. I urge you to reject this site plan and to work on capping the size of retail stores in the county."










 
 
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