Land once eyed by Walmart will keep industrial zoning

Effort to rezone site from Light Industrial I-1 to Ag Residential fails on 3-1 vote


PRINCESS ANNE — Land on Revell’s Neck Road that was to be developed into a Walmart distribution center will continue to have a Light Industrial (I-1) zoning classification despite the request of the property owner and recommendation of the planning commission to reclassify it back to Agricultural Residential (AR).

The County Commissioners after a 3-1 vote asked that the findings of fact retain the current zoning alignment which is what staff recommended last fall. The commissioners will then affirm their decision with a final vote at a later date.

The appointed members of the planning commission in November voted 3-2 in favor of property owner Mitchell Bonneville’s request to rezone the 168 acres AR. That’s the zoning classification it had following a comprehensive rezoning in 2001, but when it was under contract for sale in 2004 Walmart representatives sought to change it to I-1 saying the original classification was a mistake.

Ultimately Walmart and its hundreds of jobs never came after the General Assembly expected the retail giant to pay healthcare costs that some considered punitive. The land remained undeveloped and in 2019 Mr. Bonneville repurchased the property that has been originally owned by his father.

One of his arguments had been that the 2004 rezoning was a mistake. But Commissioner Rex Simpkins in particular said that over $7 million was invested in this area between water wells and a water tower plus the traffic signals at U.S. 13.

On top of that the permitting for natural gas by the Board of Public Works to benefit ECI influenced the elected leaders’ decision. Commissioner Randy Laird said natural gas is “backed right up to it, so in my opinion it should stay as it is.”

As he did during the Jan. 19 meeting Vice President Charles Laird motioned on Feb. 2 to accept the planning commission’s recommendation and approve the rezoning, but it died for lack of a second.

On a motion by Randy Laird with a second by Mr. Simpkins the board voted 3-1 with Charles Laird in opposition to leave the zoning as it is.

Gary Pusey, planning office director, will prepare the findings for a final vote Feb. 16. If the property owner chooses to appeal the decision the case would be heard in Circuit Court.