Wendell Wood Wants a Walmart

Developer Wendell Wood is upset. He bought a big chunk of rural land—meaning that he can’t develop it, which he’s known since before he bought it—but he had Walmart sign a contract to build a new store there. And then the county wouldn’t let him because, again, it’s zoned rural. He claims Walmart offered a “minimum of $8 million to $9 million…to do what’s called ‘at-site work,'” which Wood implies would have gone entirely to help cover the $25M bridge and road that would be necessary to even get to his parcel. Where is this land? Why, it’s right next to Walmart—on the other side of Sam’s Club, just across the river. Why build another Walmart by the old one? Because they want to replace the old one with a bigger one, leaving the old shell behind. Wood says he’d take over the current location, but one look at Albemarle Square will tell you there’s not a lot of demand for existing big-box stores. So why would anybody support this? Because the Places29 plan calls for building roads parallel to 29, including extending Berkmar, the road in question, and if Walmart could actually toss in $8M-9M towards the cost of road construction, that would be good to get. Brandon Shulleeta dug up all of this for the Daily Progress, and I think it’s got the potential to prove to be a big story. He tried to get Walmart’s side of this, but they’re not talking, so this information is all coming from Wood.

If this all sounds a bit familiar, Wood pulled something very similar a few years ago on the NGIC land, just a bit farther up 29, and successfully got the BoS to agree to convert 30 acres of rural land into develop-able land—which, to date, they have not acted upon—which would turn nearly valueless woodland into a multi-mullion-dollar parcel with a prime location, backed up by phone call to Ken Boyd (who won’t say who he talked to) saying that NGIC would pack up and leave town if the county didn’t go through with the deal. Much like Walmart, NGIC wasn’t willing to talk to the press about those claims, either.

You’d think that this would be the end of it, but BoS member David Slutzky is apparently on Wood’s side, Shulleeta writes, working to designate Wood’s land as developable. (Want to build a new house for your grandkid on your rural land? You’re out of luck. Wendell Wood wants to put in a Walmart? Come on down!) Given the lack of funding for new transportation infrastructure, it looks like all of this is academic anyhow. Whether $25M or $250M, there’s just no money to build roads or bridges.

28 thoughts on “Wendell Wood Wants a Walmart”

  1. Thanks for posting this – and thanks to Brandon and the DP for actually researching and publishing this. I drive past this spot every day and have been wondering what was going on. There is a for sale sign but the amount of work that has been going on has been staggering so I knew there was probably a deal already made. With the traffic problems on 29 and the status of the Meadowcreek Parkway up in the air, we would really be living in crazy land if a new Walmart is built across from the existing Walmart. Then again, maybe Circuit City needs room to expand.

  2. Lisa, that’s not the site for the proposed Walmart. That’s a different development.

    The proposed site is across Rivanna River towards the Target area. (Like across 29 from Hollymead, not on the same side of 29 as Hollymead.) Make sense?

  3. Thanks Questor – although now I have a need to know what the plan is for the spot across from the existing Walmart. Wendell Wood is the Lorax.

  4. What’s the WALMART slogan? Save Money, Live Better? I’m all for saving money, but that don’t sound like living better for those in the way.

  5. Lisa: I believe it was originally planned to be a Home Depot… but couldn’t get the development plans past the supers (some water issue or critical slopes issue or something). Now, I think they said it’s going to be a hotel, a bank, and a restaurant (all TBD, I believe).

    Someone can correct me if I’m wrong.

  6. Your phrase “nearly valueless woodland” made me sad. Even in pure economic terms (with no thought to natural beauty or biodiversity), woodland is quite valuable.

  7. Wendell Wood is the Lorax.

    Actually, Lisa, the Lorax was the good guy in that Seuss story. :)

    Your phrase “nearly valueless woodland” made me sad. Even in pure economic terms (with no thought to natural beauty or biodiversity), woodland is quite valuable.

    Indeed, but not to Wendell Wood.

  8. It all was rural in my memory, and there was basically nothing beyond where Whole Foods is now (formerly a Dart Drug shopping center). I’m not all that old either… Also, my dad remembers when there was a stream and woods where the Seminole Square shopping center is now. Now that stream is forever entombed in concrete, and plans are underway to bury the rest of it ont he other side too.

    While I’ve great respect for Slutzky and his efforts to protect the rural area, I’ve never felt the growth areas should be a sacrificial lamb. It can became way too easy to make these deals with the devil, and gradually erode the very resources you originally aimed to protect. (Of course, Rodney Thomas would cut the same deal in a heartbeat too, so I’ve no illusions at all that he’s a credible alternative)

  9. Tear down Albemarle Square and put the Wal-Mart there. Its already a blight, Walmart could only improve it and it has what passes for decent road access north of Cville.

    I wonder what these plans mean for the proposed Ruckersville Wal-Mart?

  10. Waldo – One correction… the thirty acres in the “NGIC land swap deal” have not yet been moved from rural area to the development area, and Places29 does not recommend it today.

    The “deal” involved the sale by Wendell Wood of about forty-seven acres of land to the federal government. It came with support from the Board of Supervisors, via a May 2006 resolution of intent, to have Albemarle County CONSIDER a future redrawing of the comprehensive plan boundaries to move thirty acres of Wood’s rural land near NGIC into the growth area with an offsetting adjustment to move seventy-seven acres near Pantops, owned by Clara Belle Wheeler [no relation to this author], into the rural area.

    In 2009, the Albemarle County Planning Commission removed the potential expansion of the growth area near NGIC from the current draft of the Places29 Master Plan. It could of course come up again when Places29 reaches the Board of Supervisors.

    Woods did proceed with the sale of a 47 acre parcel to the federal government in 2006 which is where the Joint Use Intelligence Analysis Facility (JUIAF) is being built today. Wood’s Next Generation LLC owns almost 1,000 acres near the military base. much of it in the rural area.

    Brian Wheeler, Charlottesville Tomorrow

  11. We’re all at least clear on this, right: building a newer, bigger WalMart across the street from our current, already-pretty-big WalMart doesn’t satisfy a crying need for a WalMart on the north side of town. We already have one there. And while almost everyone does like new-and-shiny as opposed to old-and-grungy, it’s not like the old Walmart is broken or obsolete. It still works. So the only “need” being met here would be Wendell Wood’s need for more money, right? And I’m not sure how it is that his need for more money trumps the larger community’s need for sensible development policies.

  12. That’s a pretty important correction, Brian—clearly my memory failed me here. I’ve fixed this, changing this bit:

    successfully got the county to convert 30 acres of rural land into develop-able land, thus turning nearly valueless woodland into a multi-mullion-dollar parcel with a prime location


    successfully got the BoS to agree to convert 30 acres of rural land into develop-able land—which, to date, they have not acted upon—which would turn nearly valueless woodland into a multi-mullion-dollar parcel with a prime location

    Thanks so much for writing!

  13. Thanks to everyone for your comments – not one is a plug for Wendell Wood and his fabulousness and not one is yelling out that anyone that doesn’t support growth and development is a tree hugging liberal.

    As someone who lives in the heart of Wendell World and tries to keep up with current events, I am amazed at how much I have actually missed. I am also telling myself that the fact the Places 29 Open Houses are on the same two nights as the Hollymead and AHS Back-To-School Nights is just a fluke. I can’t say that I would have definitely attended either one but after following this thread and whizzing around the Internet – I am finally going to start showing up and getting involved in the messy process.

    At this point, the only (personal)upside I see to all this continuing development is that I will be able to sell my house in about six years for a bunch of money to someone that wants to live in the middle of the shopping and traffic mecca of Albemarle County. Good thing that six years is about exactly when I plan on getting out anyway.

  14. You got it, this is all about Wendell Wood and the power of the purse. He knows that VDOT has no money for any roads or bridges in this area for at least a decade so unless he’s willing to build the whole thing this is just the emperor going shopping.

  15. fdr, by the time you tear all the stores down in Albemarle Square and build a new Super Walmart, there would be no room left for parking. Sure, Albemarle Square looks large, but it really isn’t. The existing buildings have no length to them at all.

  16. make the store two stories. More efficient for building material, land-use, and especially more efficient AC/heating.

  17. “…VDOT has no money for any roads or bridges in this area for at least a decade…” Where is VDOT supposed to get the money then? What the county is actually proposing is generating the tax money locally to fund the proposed roads parallel to 29N through the agency of a regional transit/transportation authority with the power to raise however many funds it wants. This authority will not be under control of the local tax payers just like all of the other local authoritites. That’s why its called an authority. Of course this authority will be turning to the private sector for additional funds to get these roads built. Then, the pressure for rezoning to growth areas will not only come from the private sector, but also from a very important quasi-public body also. Throw in some Nature Conservancy and you’ve got Ragged Mountain! And, of course, lots of complaints about growth.
    How powerful are authorites? Here’s an example: The city has been planning for vegetation to hide the uglies of construction of the McIntire Road through the park. Now the RWSA is saying it needs a 40-foot wide easement through the park so that it won’t have trees and shrubs interferring with its new sewer pipeline through the park and this area. Council? In a quandry.

  18. Cville Eye, I just don’t understand Council. We elect them to represent and protect the resources owned by the City and to not burden City ratepayers with county growth, but I see staff pushing them to co-operate with the county’s growth plan and burden their own citizens with loss of City parkland and increased water and sewer fees to pay for all these “necessary enlargements of dams and pipes ????”
    What am i missing –why are they acting this way ?

  19. @TJ, I’ve been reading your comments looking for answers.
    People campaign traditionally on Education, Workforce Development, Economic Development, Public Safety, etc. The public hasn’t asked and the candidates don’t tell about other things. Our elections in the city have traditionally concerned what public and private agencies will get money.
    It really is somewhat unfair to members of this current council to have to deal with issues that previous councils and the public have ignored in the past, working under the expectations that this council can clear up this historic mess. At least the county’s Planning Commission and several local county groups have been participating in Places 29 and need to answer two questions: Is Places 29 a desirable growth plan and If so, how does this proposal augment and detract from Places 29.

  20. I’m confused isn’t that’s Council’s job to deal with issues and to chart a better course for their citizens if the facts point in that direction ?

  21. CC and BoS behave as if they feel their job is to appease the sqeakiest wheel, their campaign contributors and the other people who actively put them in their positions. That is why none of them give a clear and definitive rationale as to why they vote for anything, especially issues that are controversial. Ever notice that none of them ever use the phrases “in the public’s best interest” or “for the general welfare?” The public never asks them to. It becomes an issue of accountability. In a one-party town with partisan elections they don’t have to do anything really.

  22. Cville Eye, I do find your analysis very instructive but I have heard Mayor Norris say that we need to know the costs of the new dam and new pipeline before allowing any construction at Ragged Mt. His justification has been, as I remember it, we owe it to the ratepayers, which means to me, in the public’s best interest, and I appreciate that he in on record for saying this. Just as Liz Palmer has tried to get all BOS candidates on record as supporting the Nature Conservancy Plan, I hope the CC candidates will be asked their position on this and be on record as Mayor Norris is and Mr. Fenwick who agrees with this. Perhaps Ms. Szakos has said something similar but I am not aware of that, but hope the questions you raise will be asked at the various forums.

  23. Yes, you are correct about Dave Norris’ statement as I remember it. It was said only AFTER a group of eight neighborhoods cam forward expressing profound questions of TNC’s proposal. It would be interesting to know what he thinks is too high a price, the $200M? I guess we’ll never know until after the election.
    AS for Szakos, here is a link to her blog expressing her ideas on the TNC water supply proposal: http://kristinforcouncil.blogspot.com/

  24. Thank you Cville Eye. I realize we are totally off topic and hope there will be other opportunities to debate her position that I find in line with the Nature Conservancy Plan and not in the public interest of city residents.

  25. If the real topic is actually how our government looks out for the interests of the public, then we really are not off topic. Anyway, I want to slip this one through, too: http://sites.google.com/site/moreszakosinfo/positions
    Back to topic. Wendel Wood aside, how do the individual members of the BoS feel about growth, especially along the 29 corridor. I believe that Boyd, Rooker, Slutzky, and Dorrier feel that 29N is Albemarle’s “downtown” and supports just about any growth along that corridor. However, Boyd is also wary of future development being harmful to current businesses in that area. I draw these conclusions from their statemnts made in public. Does anybody ask them their position on growth when they are campaigning? Does anybody ask what they view as the connection between unlimited water and unlimited growth? Does anyone ask what they view as the connection between increased transit and increased growht?

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