Residents, city council address Walmart in Poquoson

POQUOSON, Va. (WAVY) — Monday night, dozens of Poquoson residents packed the council chambers to speak out against a proposed Walmart Neighborhood Market.

Commercial Real Estate Services, CRES, has not formally applied for the by right development. As of last Thursday, CRES withdrew three re-zoning and conditional use permit applications, which would have included a Walmart Neighborhood Market, gas station and more. The city has confirmed CRES is now considering building just the grocery store, because it is already permitted on the land by right.

Monday’s meeting lasted two and a half hours, with the majority of the meeting focused on the potential Walmart. Twenty people spoke during the audience for visitors section of the meeting, but even more were there in support of the speakers.

In the last three weeks, signs and banners that say “No To Walmart” have gone up around the small city. A petition passed around by the group “Concerned Citizens of Poquoson” has also generated 2,600 signatures.

Residents said to council members on Monday night that the project is not in line with Poquoson’s comprehensive plan. They said, the plan specifically mentions keeping the small town character of the city. Some residents also said they don’t want to bring in large businesses that will compete with the already existing small businesses.

“Development needs to be managed in order to sustain a community,” said one resident who stood up to speak.

Several residents also brought up that the new application by CRES bypasses city council, the planning commission, and what residents have to say. With a by right development, a project does not need any legislative approval.

“The proposed Walmart does not meet the city council’s mandate as contained in the comprehensive plan,” said Janice Powell, a resident. “The proposed development ignores the plan, it ignores the participation process, and ignores the plan’s stated vision for Poquoson.”

City council members did take their turns responding. Some said they took notes and they’re not ready to respond. Other council members said they agreed the project doesn’t fit with the comprehensive plan and they would not vote on this project if they had the chance.

Several residents asked for council to pass an ordinance that would require council approval for any project that is more than 15,000 square feet. Mayor Gene Hunt said it would be worth starting the process. But, added, the process is a slow one and would not necessarily apply to Walmart.

CRES development was in the audience at the city council meeting. Hunt said the representatives did not want to speak, only listen to what the public had to say. WAVY.com has reached out to CRES via phone and email, and we have not heard back.

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