The owners of LeBlanc’s Food Stores plan to fight a proposed Walmart Neighborhood Market that would be developed directly across the street from its location at the intersection of Airline Highway and Duplessis Street in Gonzales. Though plans for the Walmart have yet to be officially announced by the company, the Ascension Parish Board of Adjustments approved a zoning variance for the project last month.
LeBlanc’s owner Randy LeBlanc says while the proposed Walmart would obviously pose a competitive threat to his location at 14635 Airline Highway, the reason he objects to the plans is because of safety concerns over increased traffic the proposed store would bring to the area.
“There is a safety issue with the amount of traffic that would be on the road separating our properties,” LeBlanc says. “There’s a brand new fire station there already, and with the amount of traffic Walmart would bring, I think it could lead to a variety of safety issues.”
LeBlanc did not say what steps he might take to try to block the store, which would be on the same side of Airline Highway and across Duplessis Street from his supermarket, except to say, “We are looking at pursuing this as a legal matter.”
Engineers representing Walmart filed for the variance earlier this fall, though there is no timeline yet for the proposed project, according to an Ascension Parish spokesman. No detailed plans have been filed with the parish, and the company has yet to do traffic or drainage studies. Also, Walmart must still acquire the property on which it hopes to build.
Sources familiar with the project say Walmart has a purchase agreement on the site and expects to close the deal soon. A local real estate agent who represents Walmart declines to comment.
Walmart Neighborhood Markets are scaled down versions of the larger supercenter stores the Arkansas-based retailer is best known for. Walmart already has two larger supercenter stores in Ascension Parish—one at 308 N. Airline Highway in Gonzales and another at 17585 Airline Highway in Prairieville. It also has a Donaldsonville store. —Stephanie Riegel