Info meeting for proposed Walmart ends with a walkout

HURRICANE, W.Va.–An open house information meeting held by Walmart at Hurricane City Hall Thursday night meant to address citzens’ concerns about a proposed store in Teays Valley, but led to a walkout by frustrated residents.

The proposed 42,000 square foot “neighborhood market”, which would be built on Route 34 in Teays Valley, is designed to be a smaller grocery store version of Walmart. However, citizens remain concerned about the traffic the store would cause in an already congested area. Many were frustrated that Walmart didn’t hold a formal meeting, which led to attendees walking out into the hall to stage their own meeting in protest.

Director of Public Affairs and Government Relations Kevin Thompson, who was representing Walmart, maintained they’ve done a traffic study, and the proposed store would be unique.

“The difference for the neighborhood market is you’re looking at a grocery store,” Thompson explained. “It’s a 42,000 square foot store, so it doesn’t have the same traffic demands of a supercenter which I think a lot of people think of when they hear ‘Walmart’.”

Teays Valley resident Suzanne Reid said it doesn’t matter that the building would be smaller than other Walmarts, and like many residents, said it wasn’t a personal vendetta against Walmart.

“We have sufficient grocery stores. We have sufficient gasoline stations,” Reid said. “We don’t need a store at that location. And I’m not against Walmart; I’m against a grocery store of that size being put on that piece of property, which is not zoned for a building that large.”

Another Teays Valley resident, Andy Martone, who has been active in his town’s fight against Wal-Mart, said Walmart wasn’t being entirely honest at the meeting about the proposed size.

“I think there are still unanswered questions around the size of the building,” he said. “They’ve got 38,000 square feet on the sign, and it’s my understanding it will be 43,000.”

Jay Flanagan, a representative of Bencor, which would be the development company should the Walmart get approved, echoed the retailer’s mantra that this store would be different.

“This is about a quarter of the size of a supercenter,” Flanagan said. “From the standpoint of traffic, the concept is a neighborhood market typically serves a two-mile ring around the community.”

Residents who had gathered to have their questions eventually instead gathered on their own in the hallway, where a petition was passed around, and several town members voiced their frustrations. Reid said she asked Walmart representatives for a formal meeting, but she was told that it would remain an open house format.

The Putnam County Board of Zoning Appeals will make a decision on whether to alter the zoning laws on May 14.