Wal-Mart has updated its pitch for a proposed Oxon Hill store near John Hanson Montessori School in an effort to appease nearby residents and Prince George’s County officials.
The new proposal moves the store closer to Oxon Hill Road and increases the number of parking spaces from 486 to the county required 507, as Wal-Mart aims to get approval, according to the proposal.
“It is a pretty major move to flip-flop the building and parking that way,” said Nina Albert, Wal-Mart community affairs director. “The feedback we have gotten from the community has been positive.”
Albert said the changes to the building were made to satisfy community concerns about parking coming right off of Oxon Hill Road and having a parking lot placed right next to the John Hanson Montessori School, which will be one of the store’s neighbors if it is approved.
Now traffic will travel down Clipper Way to get into the parking lot while a landscape buffer of about 50 feet has been placed between the store and the John Hanson Montessori School next door. The store, if approved, will create about 300 jobs, Albert said.
Nicole Nelson, vice president of the John Hanson Montessori School Parent Teacher Student Association, said the changes weren’t enough to warrant her support because she fears there won’t be enough security at the location.
Nelson participated in a protest on Oct. 24 with other parents of John Hanson Montessori School students and Oxon Hill High School students, another school less than a mile south of the proposed Wal-Mart. The protestors had concerns about traffic and pedestrian safety.
“Our children’s safety is paramount,” Nelson said.
Henneberg said the company will work with the community to ensure the store is safe.
“It is in our shared interest with the community to ensure the safety of our customers and associates, and so [we] will work with the neighborhood to ensure that the location is safe,” Henneberg wrote in an email to The Gazette.
Wal-Mart’s new proposal was submitted on Oct. 8, after the Prince George’s County Council required the company to submit a new special exception proposal, said Tom Lockard, Prince George’s County Planning Department planner coordinator. The new proposal was required due to legislation for buildings larger than 85,000 square feet and with 10 percent food and beverage component, Lockard said.
Wal-Mart, along with The Peterson Cos., which operates National Harbor and owns the proposed site’s land, has been trying to build the store since May 2011, said Amanda Henneberg, Wal-Mart spokeswoman.
Fort Washington resident Don Bates Sr. said he supports Wal-Mart’s bid to build the store because it will bring jobs to the area. He dismissed concerns from residents that the store would be unsafe for the children.
“Who is going to go there?” Bates said. “It is not like it is bringing anybody that’s not from the community. It will be well-lit, it is not like we are bringing a pool hall.”
The Wal-Mart proposal is still in the beginning stages and a final decision on the site by the County Council is anticipated to happen in eight to 10 months, Lockard said. However, that time frame may be longer depending on when the council decides to make a decision on the site, so it is hard to give an exact time the proposal would be approved or denied, he said.