Three of Charles County's five commissioners have written to the head of the county council in Prince George's, expressing wariness about a large Wal-Mart store planned for Accokeek.
The retail giant, which has a Wal-Mart and a Sam's Club in Waldorf, also is considering a new store in La Plata, where its representatives recently met with town officials.
Wal-Mart has drawn opposition from those who say its huge inventory and low prices may siphon customers from smaller businesses.
Others say Wal-Mart stores can expand opportunities for all businesses by attracting shoppers to a locality.
Wal-Mart is still examining the La Plata market and could decide not to build a store there, said spokesman Keith Morris from the company's headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.
Morris said Wal-Mart has decided to build a store of 135,000 square feet in the Accokeek area of Prince George's County, just north of the Charles County line. By comparison, the Wal-Mart in Waldorf is 115,000 square feet, Morris said.
The store would sit on 26 acres near the intersection of Routes 228 and 210. Some residents on both sides of the Charles-Prince George's border have begun to protest the plans, saying such a facility could disrupt Accokeek's rural, small-town ambience.
The three Charles County commissioners in their letter said the area "may not accommodate a Wal-Mart type business of the size and scale currently proposed."
The letter, dated Aug. 24, was signed by Charles County Board of Commissioners President Murray D. Levy (D-At Large), Commissioner James M. Jarboe (D-Indian Head) and Commissioner W. Daniel Mayer (R-La Plata).
It went to Prince George's County Council Chairman M.H. Jim Estepp (D-Upper Marlboro) who has said the proposed Wal-Mart is inconsistent with local zoning.
The Charles commissioners expressed concern "about the surrounding property values, businesses and the geography of this truly beautiful area which enhances both our counties."
In interviews, Levy and Jarboe said they signed the letter primarily because they are concerned a Wal-Mart could damage businesses in the economically struggling western side of Charles County.
"How much they will be affected you can't tell, but some of them will go out of business," Jarboe said.
Celia Carroll, president of the Western Charles County Business Association, expressed similar concerns. But, she added, a Wal-Mart might attract more shoppers to the area. And she said Wal-Mart associates are known for getting involved in local charities and other community activities.
"I'm somewhere in between" welcoming such a store and opposing it, Carroll said. "That's how we feel."
Commissioner Marland Deen (R-Waldorf) and Commissioner Robert J. Fuller (D-St. Charles) did not sign the letter to Estepp. In interviews, each expressed reluctance to attempt to influence events in Prince George's County.
"I don't like them to meddle in our business. I don't want to meddle in theirs," Fuller said.
In La Plata, Wal-Mart representatives recently asked a town zoning officer about water and sewer service to land on the northern edge of town, Mayor William F. Eckman said.
The tract in question, near Heritage Green Parkway, is greater than 20 acres, of which 15 acres is in La Plata, Eckman said. He said that in order to provide water and sewer service, the town would need to annex the portion of the tract that currently lies outside La Plata's borders.
The Town Council decides whether to approve annexations, giving it a possibly decisive role in whether a large store could locate on the tract.
Earlier this year, Wal-Mart representatives were considering another La Plata location just south of the sheriff's headquarters on Route 301. That site apparently has been dropped from the company's plans.