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SuperCenter plans step up

DEMOPOLIS – It was the first public admission that Wal-Mart plans to open a 158,000 square-foot SuperCenter in Demopolis.

Engineers from Henry Engineering Associates and MAP Development presented preliminary plans before the Demopolis Planning Commission Tuesday in a hearing to determine whether or not property on U.S. Highway 80 West should be rezoned to accommodate the retail giant.

Bryan Whitfield Compton, owner of a parcel of land at 969 Highway 80 West, had petitioned

the commission to rezone 18.69 acres of land from residential to retail zone to accommodate the sale of the property to Wal-Mart.

Commissioners – on a 5-3 vote – approved the rezoning measure, sending it to the city council for final approval.

The vote came after commissioners heard from a number of current property owners who were seeking to require the retailer to provide access from their lots onto the Wal-Mart property.

“If that would be a condition (of the rezoning), that would be unacceptable to us,” said Dan Henry, the engineer developing the SuperCenter for Wal-Mart.

During the meeting, commissioners heard from Ben Sherrod, a candidate for mayor and an owner of a parcel of property situated within an crescent-shaped section created by the SuperCenter’s access road.

“I think you need to consider your local people who have been here and made an investment,’ Sherrod said.

Sherrod, his son John, who also owns a parcel of land adjacent to the development, and Gerald Gilbert, who owns Mr. G’s Restaurant, asked the commissioners to require Wal-Mart to allow them to access the drive, tying their parcels to the SuperCenter’s proposed parking lot.

Henry said the liability of adding intersections with a parking lot was too great.

Henry and John Walters, an engineer with MAP Development whose company is in charge of developing a 32,000 square-foot retail outlet center that will house 15 – 20 retailers on the property explained to the commission that point of requested access wasn’t a street, merely a striped portion at the far end of the parking lot.

Following the question-and-answer period, the planning commission voted on the rezoning request.

Mayor Austin Caldwell, who sits on the planning commission made the motion to approve the request, which was seconded by Pete Stritzinger.

Commissioners Kim McNeal, Wyatt Williams and Thomas Moore voted to oppose the rezoning.

Caldwell said the SuperCenter was a positive for the city.

“I think this is a big step forward for the community,” he said.