August 30, 2012

ONCE WAL-MART OPENS its store on Georgia Avenue in Ward 4, it’s expected to create 300 jobs and generate $2.5 million in annual tax revenue. That’s, of course, in addition to the advantage to area residents of having fresh food and more shopping options. But when any of these benefits will be realized is anyone’s guess, thanks to continuing opposition from a handful of obstructionists who think that if they can delay the project it will be derailed. A hearing on their latest gambit should be expedited so that the interests of the community finally can be served.

Opponents of Wal-Mart have filed an appeal with the Board of Zoning Adjustment, asking that it overturn the building permit issued to the developer in June for construction of the 106,000-square-foot store. Construction trailers are already in place, and the groundbreaking for what would be Wal-Mart’s first operation in the District of Columbia was planned for next month. The appeal, brought by six D.C. residents, is set for a hearing in December, which would mean a delay in the project of at least four or five months. Wal-Mart’s contractor has moved for an expedited hearing, a bid that is being contested by the opponents; a hearing will be held Sept. 11.

The D.C. residents who filed the appeal seem to have waited until the last minute in order to be maximally disruptive. Attorneys for developer Foulger-Pratt estimated the delay stands to cost the firm nearly $70,000 a month and could cause the project “irreparable damage.” The issues raised by the residents bringing the action — other supermarkets already serve the area, small businesses would be hurt, the development isn’t pedestrian-oriented — were vetted and rejected in the city’s careful review process. The concerns also seem to be well outside the issues of zoning that are the basis for action by the Board of Zoning Adjustment.

“We are lacking choices on Georgia Avenue,” D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) said, telling us that her office daily gets e-mails from residents wanting to know when they will be able to apply for jobs. These residents and the thousands of other people eagerly awaiting Wal-Mart’s opening shouldn’t have to wait longer.