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Henrico Co. Planning Commission approves West End Walmart

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HENRICO, Va (WTVR) -- Those for and against a new West End Walmart spoke out today during a nearly hour-long public hearing inside Henrico's Administration building.  Following the hearing, the commission voted unanimously in favor of allowing the development of the retail giant to move forward with construction.

A few years earlier the planned property was denied.  Following today's meeting Walmart will soon set up shop near the intersection of Forest Avenue and Glenside Drive. 

Those against the project included long-time residents of the Charles Glen neighborhood, an area bordering Reynolds Crossing.  For years Jennifer Atkinson fought to keep Walmart away from her backyard.  She felt the retail giant would bring with it a slew of problems, to include added noise and more traffic to the area surrounding Crestview Elementary.  Atkinson also argued the 90,000 square foot store--with an additional 7,000 square foot gardening center--could become an eyesore.

"We were presented with a 90,000 square foot single-use retailer, which now sits 500 feet from our backyards from our beautiful revitalized neighborhood," said Atkinson.  "Instead of looking off our back decks and seeing coffee shops and planting we will now be looking at a four-story building."

But a Walmart representative said several changes to plans for the store were made as a compromise.  Some of the changes included downsizing, considering a typical Super Walmart can exceed 200,000 square feet.  Instead the new West End store will reportedly become the smallest Walmart in the Richmond region.  Developers also agreed to change plans to the outside appearance of the store so it would blend better with surrounding shops. 

In the end the commission said their votes were centered around the store meeting the zoning codes and development requirements.

"It is not within the purview of this commission to dictate business plans and it's not within the purview of this commission to promote alternate sites," said Henrico County Chairperson Bonnie-Leigh Jones.  "It is only within the scope of authority of this commission--with the help of staff--to review the application before us and base solely on those review criteria render a decision."

Sarge Reynolds with Reynolds Development said Walmart will determine when construction begins and they could break ground by next spring, meaning the store could be operational and employing an estimated 250 people by the end of next year.