Prince George's Plan Board OKs Walmart expansion despite community outcry

Expansion of the Capital Plaza Walmart store was protested by community members and officials, but the Prince George's Planning Board approved the proposal, claiming its hands were tied. An appeal to the District Council is planned.

/PM BlogSpace Report/ Despite the testimony of communities surrounding the Capital Plaza Walmart megastore – including local elected officials – the Prince George’s Planning Board Thursday (May 5) approved a massive enlargement of the store.

 Opponents will appeal the decision to the county’s District Council, which is the County Council with a zoning hat on, said Progressive Maryland organizer Jennifer Dwyer.

 Dwyer said the Planning Board “heard hours of testimony… about what a blight the existing Walmart has been on the community but said that legally their hands were tied” because the proposed plan met all criteria for approval.

 Madeleine Golde of Progressive Cheverly, one grassroots community organization that turned out in opposition, said “even though the Planning Board voted against us they heard us loud and clear and that put pressure on Walmart… .  Nonetheless, in the final analysis this [Planning Board] process is ridiculous. 

 “The end result of this process is that you don't have to be a good corporate neighbor to do business in Prince George's County and win approval…the larger sector plans are good aspirational goals but they don't really have any teeth,” Golde said in an email to Walmart opponents.

 “Residents are outraged by the Planning Board's claim that they are powerless to stop Walmart's expansion, even in light of all of the abuses the citizens have suffered,” Dwyer said. “This is a shameful failure of government.”

 Dwyer vociferously challenged a Walmart attorney’s characterization of the opponents has having “selective memory” which she called “totally insulting to those who took the day out of work and time out of their lives to speak on an issue they are deeply concerned about, folks who care that deeply about their community.”

 Walmart expansions and new stores in the Duvall and Clinton communities are also being fought, and opponents of those invasive proposals also attended yesterday’s Planning Board hearing to voice solidarity.

 “County residents are uniting to demand better— employers who will treat them with respect, more diverse and higher-quality economic development with sit-down restaurants and healthier grocery options, and smaller retail stores with a greater variety of goods, not Walmart,” said Dwyer.

 Watch the hearing video including community testimony (3:06; 3:25; 3:51); the Planning Board acknowledging problems with Walmart’s behavior (4:13) and the “selective memory” remark (4:27).