This story was updated at 2:36 p.m. Oct. 28, 2013.
They’ve been fighting a Wal-Mart coming to their neighborhood for two and a half years, and parents of Oxon Hill High School students came together again Oct. 24 to reinforce their message regarding the proposed department store: Build somewhere else.
The store’s proposed site is in between John Hanson Montessori School and Oxon Hill High School, which parents say would bring in more traffic and pose safety challenges for students.
“There is a lot of land in Prince George’s County,” said Accokeek resident Nicole Nelson, vice president of the John Hanson Montessori School Parent Teacher Student Association. “They can build it somewhere else.”
Nelson joined about 20 other parents and students holding signs on the sidewalk in front of Hanson Montessori, chanting in opposition to the store. She said the protestors have been fighting the Wal-Mart since 2011 and will continue to do so until the proposed site is changed.
The Peterson Cos. is the developer partnering with Wal-Mart in hopes of building a Super Wal-Mart on the land. The store site is still under the review process with the county, and the company has revised its plans to satisfy county requirements, Andre Gingles, Peterson Cos. attorney, said in an email to The Gazette.
“In our conversations with members of the surrounding communities, we have found overwhelming support for the expanded retail and job opportunities that this project would bring,” Gingles said in the email. “We look forward to the successful completion of the planning process and the development of quality retail at this location.”
Gingles did not directly respond regarding the protestors’ complaints by press time.
Amanda Henneberg, Wal-Mart spokeswoman, said in an email to The Gazette that one of the changes to the proposal is putting a 50-foot landscape buffer between the store and John Hanson Montessori School.
“The safety and security of our customers in the area is a top priority for us, and we have further improved these elements in our site redesign,” Henneberg said in the email.
Some of the land is designated for a fire station, and there wouldn’t be any fences between the schools and the Wal-Mart location, Nelson said. It isn’t the right fit for this area, she said.
Bowie resident Paulette Brown, student government association adviser at Oxon Hill High School, was protesting because she said a Wal-Mart would bring in too much traffic. There are children who walk to school, and the increased traffic on Oxon Hill Road would make it more dangerous, Brown said.
“Oxon Hill Road is very busy,” Brown said. “Just imagine Wal-Mart there with its large trucks.”
Marcel Adams, 17, Oxon High School Student Government Association president, said he was protesting because the company promises to bring jobs to the area, but he said there wasn’t a guarantee that high-paying jobs would be for Prince George’s County residents. Wal-Mart’s low-level jobs start at minimum wage, he said.
“Why do we want some more low-paying jobs?” Adams said. “We don’t want Wal-Mart.”
Adams also said he had concerns about young children walking near the store because it wouldn’t have fencing.
“Who is to say someone wouldn’t snatch up a child?” he said.
Fort Washington resident Ebony Howard, whose son attends Oxon Hill High School, said Wal-Mart should consider different locations that aren’t right next to two schools. The students at the school don’t need to be distracted by a large business, she said.
“We don’t want [the students] to worry about what’s going on at Wal-Mart,” Howard said. “[Wal-Mart] should sit on a land of its own.”