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The development of Benn’s Grant in Isle of Wight County will take place in the unincorporated town of Benn’s Church, at the intersection of US Route 10/258/Brewer’s Neck Blvd. It is a proposed 253-acre (1.02 km2) development with 560 residential units, 650,225 square feet (60,407.9 m2) of commercial space including 2 big box superstores, a 100-room hotel, strip malls, among other business and office parks. This building plan will result in a developmental boom for Smithfield, Windsor, and other adjacent small communities, and theoretically economic increase for the towns as well.
In the spring of 2007, Wal-Mart franchise partnered with the developer Armada Hoffler to comprise the initial plans for the Benn’s Grant community to be put on a piece of land at the intersection of 3 main highways of Isle of Wight County. These plans were proposed to the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors in the fall of 2007, followed by much petitioning, deliberation, and protests. With much opposition from the Board of Supervisors and the residents of Smithfield and Windsor (Citizens Against Benn’s Grant obtained over 2000 residents’ signatures, the steps leading to the approval of the development were set back. The progress of Benn’s Grant had reached a standstill and Wal-Mart did not pursue Isle of Wight County development for while, instead building 2 big box stores within 20 minutes of the desired Benn’s Grant location.
Ongoing plans as of 2009
Presently, the first step in approving the new Benn’s Grant plan under Harvey Lindsay Commercial Reality has been successful. The plans were approved May 21, 2009, despite some still steady opposition from IWC residents, with a 4-1 vote by the BOS. Supervisor Casteen was the only opposition in the May vote.
The issue of Benn’s Grant is currently under formal procedure, as it is being processed by county and state legislation. Many believe that Isle of Wight County should now focus on lobbying for states to pass legislation mandating minimum benefits that larger employers, such as Wal-Mart, provide their workers. Ethically, large retailers should pay their employees a “living wage.” Wal-Mart pays their sales clerks an average annual salary of $13, 861; the 2001 federal poverty line is $14,630 for a family of three. Limited benefits of Wal-Mart employees also put a strain on state health care and assistance programs. One-third of Wal-Mart employees are part-time, leaving them with little to no benefits.
- Ferguson, T. & Joseph, J. (2009). Benn’s Grant: Isle of Wight County, Va. Harvey Lindsay Commercial Reality. http://www.loopnet.com/Attachments/0/F/A/0FA160F2-C988-4307-9E98-FC3AD189EEA3.pdf
- Board of Supervisors Minutes. Jan 2008.
- Darden, Deloris. Letters to Board of Supervisor. 2008.
- Darden, Deloris. Personal Interview. 14 February 2010.
- Board of Supervisors Minutes May 21, 2009.
- Irwin, E.G. and Clark, J. (24 September 2007). “Wall Street vs. Main Street: What are the Benefits and Costs of Wal-Mart to Local Communities.” Choices Magazine.
- Miller, George. Everyday Low Wages: The Hidden Prices We All Pay for Wal-Mart. Democratic Staff of the Committee on Education and the Workplace. U.S. House of Representatives.