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Kanawha eyes alternate sites for proposed Walmart

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper wants the county planning department and officials with the Charleston Area Alliance to work with executives for Walmart to find a suitable location for a store in northern Kanawha County.

Kanawha County Manager Jennifer Sayre said representatives for the retail giant contacted county planning officials in mid-September about the possibility of locating a Walmart Super Store at Coonskin Park.

Walmart executives offered $2 million to buy land at Coonskin as part of a proposed $10 million to $15 million project to build a 150,000-square-foot retail store to employ about 300 people.

County officials said Walmart is interested in locating a store in the northern part of the county to supplement stores in Southridge Centre in the south, Nitro in the west and Quincy, in the eastern part of the county.

Walmart is not publicly confirming any plans to build a new store in Kanawha County.

"While we have no plans to announce regarding a store in Charleston, we are always evaluating new opportunities to bring jobs and new, affordable shopping options to West Virginia communities," company spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said in an email statement from the company.

However, Carper said planning officials have been talking with Walmart executives about the possibility of a new store in the county. "I can assure you, we were contacted," he said.

"We went through this same thing with [Walmart] for a couple of years in the eastern end of the county," Carper said. "I've done this with them and other companies for the past 12 years, and this is how it works."

It would be up to the Kanawha County Parks and Recreation Commission to decide to sell land at Coonskin Park, but Carper and fellow commissioners Hoppy Shores and Dave Hardy don't think the park would be a good place for a Walmart store.

Carper also said putting a store at the site could threaten West Virginia's Air and Army National Guard facilities along Coonskin Drive. Federal officials might shut down the 130th Airlift Wing and the National Guard unless security concerns are addressed by closing off Coonskin Drive and building a new bridge across the Elk River in Mink Shoals to provide access to Coonskin Park.

The county planning department already has suggested one alternate site for a Walmart, a 110-acre tract of land in Mink Shoals owned by the O.V. Smith family. However, the site, located on a hill overlooking Interstate 79, might be too steep to be a suitable location for a retail store.

Carper said he will ask planning officials to get together with officials from the Charleston Area Alliance to scout out other possible sites in the county for a Walmart store.

"We've had some studies done of different [business] locations around the area," said Charleston Area Alliance President Matt Ballard.

He said Walmart executives probably have a good idea about how much space they need and what kind of access will be required to build a store. "Every company has different criteria for what they need," Ballard said. "They will know what they want."

Ballard said the Elkview interchange of Interstate 79 might make a good location for a Walmart. So might undeveloped land off the Clendenin exit.

"That interchange really needs something to connect it back to the community," Ballard said.

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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