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2002-11-17
Monument, CO. Wal-Mart Playing Monumental Games with Supercenter Plan.

Wal-Mart has been trying to build a 186,000 s.f. superstore in the town of Monument, Colorado for about three years. The retailer wanted to have the parcel they picked annexed from the county of El Paso into the town limits. The proposed location is only nine minutes away from another Wal-Mart supercenter in Colorado Springs. When local officials balked, Wal-Mart went to El Paso County instead, and proposed the same project on the same parcel -- leaving off the annexation part. The Colorado Springs Independent newspaper says that local critics of Wal-Mart think it's just "another sneaky attempt" by Wal-Mart to build a store without helping to pay for road improvements that would be necessary near the corner of Interstate 25 and Baptist Road. John Heisner, an El Paso county Planning Commissioner has warned that the Wal-Mart project just outside town limits will lead to "the killing of the Monument tax base." Wal-Mart first came to Monument officials in 1999 asking to annex the proposed store location into the town, which would give the store access to water and sewer service. But local residents asserted that Wal-Mart wasn't paying its fair share of necessary improvements to Baptist Road. County Planners estimate that the superstore will double the current road volume by adding 12,000 vehicle trips per day. Wal-Mart withdrew its plans in 2000, but in October, 2002, they filed an application with the El Paso County Planning Department instead, proposing a store in the same location, but minus the annexation into Monument. To get sewer and water, Wal-Mart would contract with the Triview Metropolitan District, a special tax district that provides services to the southeastern part of Monument. Wal-Mart also proposed that instead of paying Monument a 3% sales tax, they would create a new non-profit Public Improvement District (PID) to pay for local road improvements. Wal-Mart would pay half of the sales fee to the PID, and half to the Triview District. A Wal-Mart Realty spokesman, John Bisio, told the newpaper "if it's Wal-Mart business that's going to in essence pay for those improvements -- something that would benefit not just Wal-Mart customers, but motorists in that area -- I don't see why that's such a bad thing." But County Planning Commissioner Heiser, says the Town of Monument is the loser. "In essence what's happening here is sales-tax revenue that should be going to the town of Monument is being diverted" to pay for the road improvements. Wal-Mart won't have to pay for any of the road work out of its own pockets, Heiser explains. Monument will also see sales tax revenues fall as local merchants feel the impact of lost sales due to the Wal-Mart supercenter. Heiser says the town "should be fighting this tooth and nail. Here's a project that's going to kill the town budget." Wal-Mart uses its standard "retail magnet" argument. "I think our store would provide more of a draw, or even give people one less reason to leave Monument or the Monument area to shop," Bisio said. "I think it would serve as something of a magnet or even catalyst for other businesses." The newspaper quoted Al Norman as saying: "The only magnetism is to their store. Other merchants don't see a benefit, because Wal-Mart is promoting one-stop shopping." Assistant County Planning Director Carl Schueler says "the killer issues are land-use compatibility and traffic." The local roads simply cannot accomodate the traffic volume proposed. The store would have to be "shoe-horned into the site," Schueler said. In addition, the county's comprehensive plan for the area states that large commercial developments should be annexed into local towns, because the towns need the sales-tax revenues.

What you can do: The county Planning Commission is not expected to take up the Wal-Mart plan until January. Some observers think the County Commissioners might support the project. Commission Chairman Tom Huffman says: "Whenever it comes to land-use issues, I try hard not to form an opinion until I hear the actual testimony." Residents are now organizing to fight the latest incarnation of the supercenter plan. See www.coalitiontlc.org.










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

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