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Thread: Wal-Mart tales of terror?

  1. #1

    Wal-Mart tales of terror?

    I was just wondering if any of you have some anecdotes about Wal-Mart (Sprawl-Mart) in your community. I've heard that they like to first oversaturate the market by getting permissions for multiple outlets, and then close down stores once the competition has died out. Anyone experience this kind of thing first-hand?

    Or, anyone out there (helped to) wage a successful battle against this -- or any other major -- retail giant?

  2. #2
    Member
    Registered
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Texas
    Posts
    68
    They tried to build a Wal Mart about four blocks from my house. Unfortunately, my neighbors banded together to defeat it. My wife and I were among the few who supported it. (Wal Mart foolishly tried to rezone a corner of land so that they could use it as a buffer to protect some neighboring apartments. The rest of the land was already zoned for commercial uses).

    My neighbors were afraid that traffic would increase (As though traffic won't increase when several hundred additional single family homes and two major apartment complexes are built down the road from us- check the comp plan guys!).

    They were afraid property values would drop (I hope so! I have no plans on moving out of my house, I have lived in this part of town for 23 years. I bought a house in my parents neighborhood about three years ago. I don't like having my taxes go up every year, its making my home unaffordable!)

    They thought crime would increase (the only way to prevent crime is to know your neighbors, any crime increase would be on the Wal Mart property)

    They didn't want those kind of people shopping in the area (I don't know what this means, but I am the kind of person that shops at Wal Mart).

    The land was already zoned for retail. It sits at the edge of a freeway and a major arterial. My neighbors don't want the parcel to ever be developed (but they ignored my suggestion to take up a collection and purchase the land).

    Last thing I want is another vacant or near vacant strip center near my house. With a major anchor like Wal Mart, that parcel could actually survive, and the increased retail density might actually help fill in the empty store fronts in three of the six pre-existing strip centers in my "neighborhood".

    The nicest thing about Wal Mart was going to be that I would finally have a grocery store on my side of the freeway. As it stands I have to cross beneath two overpasses in order to get to a grocery store. On foot, with kids in tow, it's more trouble than it's worth to walk.

    I sent a letter of conditional support to our P&Z and City Council stating that if certain landscaping conditions were met (I enumerated my concerns) that I was in favor of a Wal-Mart being built in the area.

  3. #3
    Member
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    Aug 2001
    Location
    Texas
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    68
    The Wal Mart was defeated in my city. Of course, the parcel they bought for it straddles city boundaries. They could just flip it round so that the building is in the neighboring city, and the parking lot is in mine, and try again. Screwy city boundary lines....

    I have no illusions about code enforcement problems. You always have to hold a developer's feet to the fire to get what they agreed to on their site plans. With the whole neighborhood watching, and with the political power to punish them, I figured we could have kept Wal-Mart in line. Of course, to do that, you have to convince them that you have the power to crush them, but are willing to negotiate. My neighbors gambled that they were capable of more than a bluff, and won. (actually, a vocal minority won, all of my immediate neighbors that I talked to were in favor of the Wal-Mart coming in, though several had been brow-beat into signing a petition against it. I guess its hard to argue with a red-faced fanatic screaming their lungs out at you if you disagree with them).

    I have a friend in a nearby city who also had a Wal-Mart try to come in near her house. She was part of the neighborhood group that stopped it. (There's was proposed directly across the street from private residences- so it made sense to oppose it. Mine was proposed along a major highway with retail and multi family surrounding it, what else is the land good for but retail?) We had about three Wal-Marts proposed and defeated here in the D/FW area within a year's time.

  4. #4
    Big Bad Box, I'm the lady that Troy mentioned. My neighborhood's fight with Wal Mart started in April of 1999. The first city council meeting ended in an agreement amongst city council members that both sides should learn more about the negotiation and come back later, more "learned". We were the last topic on the agenda. We went home around midnight... it seemed. The fight against Wal Mart dragged on for a long time.

    My husband, toddler daughter and I passed out fliers against Wal Mart, which were paid for by ourselves as well as a few other neighbors. Each street that we got farther away from the intended site, the stronger the support for Wal Mart became since they didn't want to have to drive 8 miles to get to the nearest Super Wal Mart. (We've already got 5 Wal Marts within 15 miles, so we didn't need another one, though our city council pointed out that OUR CITY didn't have one! Grrr...)

    Wal Mart mailed out their propaganda through a band of some of our neighbors who called themselves something like "a concerned group of citizens for economic growth"... translation... they had paid advertisement for their side paid by Wal Mart.

    My family and I weren't within the 100 ft (we're within 200 ft...), so we couldn't vote either for or against Wal Mart. However, we rallied behind those who were, who were against Wal Mart. About a third of those, who were within the 100 ft, were mostly renters with property owners living elsewhere. A third of those within 100 ft were citizens in the next city over who weren't allowed to vote on this issue since it wasn't in their city. The final third of those within 100 ft, who did own property and lived there were divided. Half of them wanted the Wal Mart since the "concerned citizens group for economic growth" was spreading rumors that the city would build low-income housing there immediately if the Wal Mart was not built. It took a lot of struggling to get that half to believe that it was a rumor and that it wasn't zoned for low-income housing. It was a tough battle with neighbor against neighbor. All but two of the city council people lived on the other side of the highway, so it seemed hard for them to take concern on our case it not being in their back yards... it would have been in my front yard.

    Before the next city council meeting occurred (September 1999), our neighborhood homeowners' association had had time to triple in size and work on defending ourselves in a polite manner at the city council meeting.

    The thing that clenched the vote against Wal Mart (5 against and 2 for) was the fact that the Wal Mart attorney and the property owner hadn't discussed who would repave the parking lot of the existing stores in the retail space. The property owner is the mayor of a nearby city with higher property value than ours, so it seemed like a slap in the face that he would invite Wal Mart into our neighborhood when his city has a very strict building code. He inherited the property from his father, and, as the executor to his father's will, wanted to get rid of the property instead of paying taxes on it. The property was supposed to have had houses built on it 30 years ago, however, the development had not been finished. The Super Wal Mart would have had single family houses on the west side of the property (no street in between, just an alleyway) and rental duplexes on the south side separated by a street... retail to the north and to the east... another city (apartments and retail mixed).

    The verdict of the September city council meeting was that Wal Mart could not propose another Wal Mart there within the next year. Nothing happened in 2000, however, recently, a Wal Mart "Neighborhood Market" popped up on vacant land next to a mostly empty shopping strip... surrounded by houses. I never heard a peep about it.

    About your other question, there had been a Wal Mart down the street from the intended new Super Wal Mart. It had been closed down about 4 1/2 years ago. It finally got filled a few years ago by a Home Depot. It astounded a lot of us why Wal Mart would have wanted to move in to a smaller property and have a larger store when the one they vacated had been "too small" for a regulary Wal Mart store.

    During the time in between the city council meetings, the Wal Mart attorney and his team kept revising their blue prints adding more trees. That was their only concession to us. Wal Mart "promised" not to deliver goods by truck after midnight and not before 6am. Ridiculous! I could go on...

    Good luck against them!

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    400 miles from Orlando
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    One of our planners handled a super wal-mart proposal several years ago; it was eventually denied. Last year when the planner was looking for a job elsewhere, the first thing he asked his potential employers was "Do you already have a Super Wal-Mart?". The last thing he wanted was to go into another small town and fight the big ugly Wal-Mart battle again!

  6. #6
    Member Planter's avatar
    Registered
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Boise, Idaho
    Posts
    9
    As the Comprehensive Planner for my town, I led the fight against a Walmart Superstore and we won. Their proposal was in contradiction to the Comprehensive Plan for the site, which called for half the amount of retail and the rest in residential.

    It was a painful and bloody battle. During all the preliminary discussions, the applicant wouldn't even admit it was a Walmart. In fact, they told us it was NOT a Walmart. They described it as "kind of a neighborhood-serving, grocery store kind of thing." Of course, when they finally produced a site plan with 12-acres devoted to parking it became pretty obvious.

    The hearings were brutal. Walmart brought in many employees from other stores, some even from out of state, to act as concerned citizens. They did mass mailings way outside the neighborhood and even outside the city. They promised it would be a wonderful world if they were approved.

    We argued that our policy plan seeks to avoid large single-use projects, that the site was zoned for at least two uses and that it was large enough to accomodate a true mix of several. We argued that the street system in the area was at capacity and that to widen the roads would require the condemnation of a very nice small pedestrian-oriented food court on the corner. We argued that there was more than ample retail space, some of it sitting vacant or under-used, in the area without rezoning this site for that much additional.

    And guess what, it was denied. Within a year, a new developer came along. Through a process of negotiation we got a project approved for the site which included: retail, office, multi-family and a local roadway through the middle of the site connecting everything togther. It will be a nice addition to the neighborhood.

    Of course, the Walmart simply moved to a new site right across the street which was in a neighboring city, and which welcomed them with open arms despite the protests of their citizens. But at least that site had been zoned for retail all along.

  7. #7
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Mar 1996
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    Upstate New York
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    Don't have to worry 'bout Wal -Mart -- the largest single use structure permitted by my employer's zoning code is 60,000 square feet.

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