WHSV Summary - June 10, 2003

Supercenter Sprawl Concerns Town
Erin Tate

It's a vote that will change the face and the fate of Front Royal. The re-zoning of a residential flood plain to commercial space would permanently alter the town's scenic welcome. And it would mean another Wal-Mart Supercenter right in the heart of small-town America.

At a town council meeting Monday night, the people of Front Royal came with their concerns. Some brought bundles of petitions, thousands for and thousands against Wal-Mart.

One woman, who had been told by council members her petitions didn't count, even threatened them.

"If our voices don't county today, they'll count at election time," she said, as the room exploded with applause.

Many people are divided over the issue. Some say Wal-Mart would mean more convenience, more jobs and more revenue for the town. But most at the meeting said Wal-Mart doesn't belong on Route 55.

Craig Laird, Vice President of the "Save Our Gateway" group that's protesting Wal-Mart's move to the Rt. 55 site, explained, "It's one of our most beautiful vistas. It's a gateway to our community and to lose it would be irreplaceable."

Wal-Mart opponents say safety is an issue with nearby schools and homes. Potential run-off into the Shenandoah River concerns environmentalists. And others worry about more traffic in an area already identified as a choke point.

But Joshua Boisvert, a Wal-Mart official, in from D.C. and speaking on behalf of the town's business coalition, says Wal-Mart will take care of those problems.

"Traffic will be better at this location. If Wal-Mart goes down the road, it won't be responsible for paying for any road improvements in Front Royal at all," he said.

Wal-Mart has said the Route 55 site is the only plot of land it's interested in. The town council is expected to give its final vote as early as Wednesday.