Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
E-mail this article
Print this Article

A letter written by La Plata Planning Commission member Richard Gilpin in opposition to the annexation of land into the town for the construction of a Wal-Mart Supercenter was not prepared or distributed by the town.

Town Manager Daniel Mears made a statement at the La Plata Town Council’s regular meeting Tuesday that Gilpin’s letter was not authorized by the town.

“Mr. Gilpin’s letter does not reflect the position of the town or its planning commission regarding the approval or rejection of the annexation at the upcoming election,” Mears said. “As previously stated, the town remains neutral in this referendum election.”

Postage for the letter was paid for by United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 400, Mears said.

The town council approved annexing 14.11 acres at the corner of U.S. 301 and Rosewick Road in late 2011 by a 3-2 vote. Outcry by town residents brought the annexation proposal to a circuit court judge, who nullified the referendum, and to the Court of Appeals in 2013, which overturned the ruling and sent the case back to the town to implement the vote. On April 9, town residents will vote for or against the annexation. Johel Limited Partnership owns 10 acres of the property on which sits the vacant Mitchell Supply. The remainder of the parcel is state highway right of way.

Several town and county residents spoke during public comments at Tuesday’s meeting, in favor and in opposition of the annexation.

Charlotte Stroud, who lives outside town limits, said she is in favor of the annexation because it would bring jobs to the town and in the town’s 2000 vision plan larger retail was planned for U.S. 301, including the annexation site.

“I don’t think it really hurts the central business district,” Stroud said, adding that the services provided by a new Wal-Mart would be important.

James Jarboe, who also lives outside the town’s limits and is on the executive board of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 400 thanked the council for the opportunity for town residents to vote for the referendum.

“What more democratic way could it be than having a vote?” Jarboe said.

He encouraged town residents to get out April 9 and vote. Jarboe was among a group of residents who gathered signatures for a referendum petition in late 2011.

“After it’s over, there’ll be a winner, and there’ll be a loser, depending on what side you’re on, and I would hope that the town would heal from that,” Jarboe said, “and I hold no resentment for the people on the council.” He said he respects the opinion of residents in the town.

Ronald Caballaro of Waldorf said he recently became aware of the annexation proposal. A developer requested an annexation in a city Caballaro lived in before coming to Waldorf, he said. The developer was hoping to obtain access to city services, but “the side benefit of that was 200 more jobs added and the tax base of the entire city was lowered by several percentage points so that the taxes went down for the city residents.”

Donald Anderson, a member of the Indian Head Economic Development Commission and a property owner in Indian Head for more than 12 years, said he favors the annexation.

“I think it would stimulate growth,” said Anderson, who lives in Prince George’s County. “I’m all for keeping my property taxes lower.

Anderson said the annexation “is a Southern Maryland regional issue, and this will affect the county and the Southern Maryland region greatly. And I think it’s a good thing.”

Michael Runfola, a town resident, encouraged residents to vote regardless of whether they favor the annexation or not. He said the town’s last election drew 5 percent of voters.

“Appalling, absolutely appalling,” Runfola said. “Now I know it rained that day, but, my goodness, don’t people have umbrellas?”

Paddy Mudd, former town council member, said only residents of the town can vote April 9, not business owners and not residents who live outside the town limits.

“We already have a Wal-Mart in La Plata,” Mudd said. “This will leave an empty, big-box store that may or may not be filled.” Mudd also commented on the hours of voting selected by the town. Residents will vote from noon to 8 p.m.

“I believe that this disenfranchises a whole section of our community,” Mudd said. She pointed to the average age of town residents, 38, and said most people in their 30s and 40s work during the day. As a county election judge for 25 years, Mudd said the majority of voters come out 7 to 9 a.m. and 6 to 8 p.m.

Andrew Gauvin of Welcome said he worked for the Safeway in La Plata from 2008 until early last year, and he remembers when the Giant Food store was proposed for Rosewick Road. As a Safeway employee, he said his work hours were not affected by the opening of the Giant, and the Wal-Mart Supercenter would be good for the town’s growth.

“I know this is only a vote for La Plata residents, but it is something that affects the rest of the county,” Gauvin said.

Tuesday’s meeting was the last council meeting before the referendum vote, so Town Mayor Roy Hale read a statement on the matter reminding residents that the town council has maintained a neutral stance on the proposal.

“Annexations by nature are not easy,” Hale said. “It takes a long time to work through those because of the impact on the community.” He said a council’s vote on an annexation is not necessarily the end of the process.

Hale said he has heard of lot of misinformation about the annexation. Hale said the current Wal-Mart will not remain empty, and Wal-Mart will be required to maintain it until it is occupied again, according to the annexation agreement. The ballot April 9 is about the annexation of 14 acres, not about the construction of a Wal-Mart. Hale also corrected misinformation that a Wal-Mart Supercenter cannot be built in the county. He said a special exception would allow for a supercenter in the county. Finally, Hale said the annexation will not increase taxes in the town.

The council also:

•Approved a resolution providing death benefits for dependents of the town’s public safety employees.

•Approved a resolution declaring unused town equipment as surplus for the purpose of disposal.

•Awarded a bid of not more than $60,000 for construction of a sidewalk on the east side of Hawthorne Drive.

•Appointed Sandi Pattreli to the town’s Beautification Commission and King Adkins Jr. to the board of appeals.