- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The annexation of a Wal-Mart Supercenter at the corner of U.S. 301 and Rosewick Road is coming to a vote by residents of the town of La Plata on April 9.
On Sept. 27, 2011, the La Plata Town Council approved the annexation in a 3-2 vote.
Town residents organized and gathered signatures in a petition, but validation of the signatures was called into question, and the referendum was denied by a circuit court ruling in May 2012. An appeal by residents brought the case to the Court of Appeals in April 2013.
“We felt that 75 percent of the people that we actually talked to [said] that they didn’t want the Wal-Mart,” said James Jarboe, a resident who lives outside of town limits but near the annexation site. Jarboe helped organize town residents against the annexation and gathered signatures for the petition in late 2011.
Jarboe said the issue most residents had with the annexation was the traffic and congestion “like in Waldorf” it would create in La Plata. Town residents wanted La Plata to maintain a small-town feel and believed controlled growth was important. Jarboe said town residents understood some growth was necessary but only in certain areas of the county, not in La Plata.
“We want a big turnout [for the vote on April 9],” said Jarboe, who served as a Charles County commissioner from 1998 to 2002.
Signature collectors were encouraged by the amount of names they were able to gather in 2011. Jarboe said perhaps one out of five residents who were petitioned wanted the Wal-Mart Supercenter. But Jarboe said he is optimistic that the annexation will not get the majority vote April 9.
“We feel like we’ve got the numbers,” Jarboe said.
Michael Runfola, a town resident since 1986 who lives behind the current Wal-Mart off of U.S. 301, supports the supercenter but is willing to live with either decision as long as the decision is left up to the town’s residents.
“I believed [from the beginning] this was an issue that needed to be decided by the people,” Runfola said, adding that “these big issues need to be decided by the town, not by five people who may or may not be around [on town council when the issue comes up again].”
The annexation is 14.11 acres, 4.11 acres of which is owned by Faison Capital Development, and 10 acres owned by Johel Limited Partnership. Mitchell Supply, a vacant building, currently sits on the 10-acre parcel. The annexation petitioners have proposed construction of a 50,000-square-foot office building, an approximately 180,000-square-foot Wal-Mart store and three outlet retail buildings.
The 10 acres would be combined with 18 acres that the town annexed in 2006, La Plata Town Manager Daniel Mears said.
“After review, the petition [in late 2011] contained legally sufficient signatures of more than 20 percent of individuals qualified to vote in town elections to send the matter to referendum,” Mears said in an email statement.
Councilman Joe Norris said he voted for the annexation in 2011, and he still is in favor of the Wal-Mart Supercenter based upon his calculations and feedback from his constituents. Most of his constituents supported the annexation.
“I’m happy that it’s going to be resolved and to have the opportunity for [town residents] to vote on it,” Norris said.