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2002-08-08
Union County,NC. "Bully" Wal-Mart Sues County

Residents in Monroe and Union County, North Carolina have thus far successfully kept out a Wal-Mart supercenter. But now the ungainly giant from Arkansas has sued Union County officials in a last ditch effor to get by litigation what they couldn't get by regulation. And it pains Wal-Mart to file the lawsuit. "It's not something we were eager to do," Wal-Mart spokesman Keith Morris told the Charlotte Observer. "It was a very difficult decision, but we felt we had no other options." Wal-Mart claims it filed suit because they weren't receiving any response from the county on why a special-use permit was necessary. The suit seeks to force the county to put Wal-Mart's application on the planning board's agenda. The county has refused because it says the company has to go through a more demanding permit process. Wal-Mart has been trying to put up a 206,000-s.f. store on 31 acres. County Manager Mike Shalati said the suit does not change the county's position that Wal-Mart must apply for a special-use permit instead of the more general permit the company wants. The county is clearly trying to stop large scale stores, but Wal-Mart doesn't seem to get the picture. Last January, the county commissioners put a special-use
permit requirement for stores bigger than 50,000 square feet. Their zoning
code requires that the county's Board of Adjustment approve such special
permits. The BOA has the right to reject the application if it finds
the store is likely to endanger public health or safety, substantially hurt
nearby property values, be out of harmony with the area in which it is
to be located or not conform to the county's plans for the area. But
Wal-Mart doesn't think they need a special permit. County commissioner Clayton Loflin told the Observer he's disappointed with Wal-Mart for what he
calls its lack of cooperation with the county. "In this case, I think
they're trying to be a bully," Loflin said. He said the company wants the
county's planning board to hear the request and then decide which type of
permit is required. One local neighbor was fed up with the company's hardball
tactics: "To me, it's pretty heavy-handed that rather than follow the
processes we have to follow, that they just show up in court with a lawsuit," said neighborhood spokeswoman Dorothy Bryant. "That's obviously more threatening."

What you can do: Wal-Mart says it had "no other options" but to go to court. There is an obvious option that Wal-Mart often overlooks -- that sage advice of its founding scion, Sam Walton: "If some community, for whatever reason,doesn't want us to go in there, we aren't interested in going in and creating a fuss." Maybe the new leaders at Wal-Mart don't consider a lawsuit a "fuss", maybe it's just another business strategy for forcing themselves on a community that clearly is trying to keep them out. How thick is the corporate skin that ignores such obvious desires to have you go away? How many other companies in America would continue to try and locate in a community where the local officials are calling you a "bully" in the press? Where does corporate responsibility begin or end with Wal-Mart? For local contacts in Union County, contact info@sprawl-busters.com. For history on this case, search this database by "Union County" or "Monroe".










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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