The Bowie Advisory Board sided with residents against Wal-Mart, recommending the City Council deny the store’s application to build a new Supercenter at Mill Branch Crossing.
“People were concerned about the health of the community,” said Terry Rogers Jr., planning board member.
On Tuesday, Wal-Mart presented its case to move from its current location in Bowie, 3300 Crain Highway, and build a new about 186,000 square-foot Supercenter location across the street at Mill Branch Crossing. The new Wal-Mart would be state of the art, have a unique design and bring in about 80 more jobs than the current store already has, which employs about 300 associates, according to Wal-Mart’s presentation.
Residents attended the meeting and gave their concerns before the board voted. Resident Robin Williams said the store would chase out other retail outlets and make the city unattractive for more high-end retail stores like Nordstrom.
“We deserve more as Bowie residents than a Wal-Mart Supercenter,” Williams said during her comments to the board.
Supporters said a new Wal-Mart would bring in more retail for the city and meet one-stop shopping needs.
Resident Chris Lawson said the store would be a positive influence on the city and its business space. Wal-Mart draws customers and that draws more retail, he said. Lawson also recommended the old Wal-Mart at Crain Highway be used as a Bowie recreation center because he said the city has outgrown the current location.
“It is a positive,” Lawson said. “It gives [Bowie] an opportunity to attract high level of retail.”
Rogers made a motion to deny the application, and a second was received, followed by the board voting 6 yes votes to 1 abstention against the application.
Wal-Mart isn’t out of the race yet as the Bowie City Council meets Monday and will make a decision on whether Wal-Mart should be denied by the Prince George’s County government. The city plays an advisory role in this process, with Wal-Mart’s request for the store ultimately decided by the county, said Joseph Meinert, Bowie Department of Planning director. But that application now comes with the board’s recommendation for denial.
Lisa Avery, advisory planning board chairwoman, said she felt the board made the right decision for the people of the city, who had come out strong against Wal-Mart moving and building a bigger store.
The board’s decision contradicts the Bowie Planning Department staff’s recommendation to approve Wal-Mart’s application.
“A lot of people against [Wal-Mart] were passionate and had a strong argument,” Avery said.
Andre Gingles, an attorney representing Wal-Mart, said he was disappointed with the board’s decision, and he had confidence that Wal-Mart’s application meets all of the criteria for approval by the Bowie City Council.
“We think that we met all the criteria and the planning staff was accurate,” Gingles said. “We hope to eventually prevail.”