Wal-Mart comes to the table

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 25, 2004

DEMOPOLIS – Wal-Mart representatives met Thursday with property owners neighboring the site on which the retail giant plans to build a Supercenter.

Don Cannada, a Jackson, Miss. attorney who represents Wal-Mart, and John Walters with the engineering firm MAP, met with members of the Demopolis City Council and property owners that will front the development who have requested Wal-Mart provide their lots access into the Supercenter’s parking lot.

We did meet with the property owners and tried to hear their concerns and see if there was any way we could address them and explore solutions and possibilities,” Cannada said.

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Cannada said he, in no way, was involved in the decision-making process for Wal-Mart, but said the company asked him to attend the meeting on its behalf.

“What the property owners want is access to the Wal-Mart access road. I don’t know if that can be done,” said Mayor Austin Caldwell.

“The businesses are concerned about traffic, safety and loosing traffic in front of their businesses because of the traffic flow into and out of the Supercenter,” he said.

Ben Sherrod, one of the property owners, isn’t very optimistic about the company allowing them driveway access from their lots, but appreciated Wal-Mart sending people over to discuss the issue. He’s concerned about the traffic flow and said, based on a Wal-Mart traffic study he obtained, an average of 50 percent of the new traffic the Supercenter will generate will miss his businesses and those of the other owners.

“Fifty-five percent of the new traffic will come from east and they’ll turn before they get to us, and 45 percent of the new traffic will come from the west, and they’ll turn before they get us,” he said.

“I think they’re trying to get back in good graces with the town,” Sherrod said of the meeting.

“I think (Cannada and Walters) heard what we said. I don’t think it’s going to change their mind, and would be shocked if they do (allow access), but it was nice. They listened to our concerns and showed some degree of understanding,” he said.

The rub had come during the Demopolis Planning Commission’s meeting June 15 when architect Dan Henry had refused to acknowledge the property owners request. Some, like Sherrod, had taken offense to Henry’s comments.

“It boils down to one thing: We just want every chance we can get for their customers to have access to our businesses,” Sherrod said.

“It was a good meeting and I appreciate them coming back to Demopolis … and find out where everybody’s coming from. It can’t do anything but help,” he said.

Caldwell said the meeting was arranged by local developer and real estate agent Bill Mackey who is assisting in the project. As such, it was not an official meeting of the council and did not require public notification.