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.