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2004-09-09
DeSoto, TX. Citizen's Likely to Challenge Wal-Mart OK In Court.

The City Council in Desoto, Texas apparently had its mind made up, and didn't want to be confused by the facts. The Council this week voted 6-1 to rezone land for a Wal-Mart supercenter, despite the fact they may have acted illegally to do it. An attorney for residents in Desoto against the plan presented a letter outlining how the city had violated Texas law and its own comprehensive plan. Under the city's Comprehensive Plan, the 45-acre site was zoned residential. To try to appease neighbors, Wal-Mart designed a 6.7 acre park to the west of the building, to try to "buffer" the enormous building from the Chapel Hill neighborhood, and the company also changed the color scheme of the building to "match DeSoto High School's colors," according to the Dallas Morning News. But such cosmetic changes were not likely to score many points with area residents. Citizens have been busy gathering petition signatures to put the question of rezoning to a nonbinding referendum, but city officials said that such initiative and referendum elections – while generally allowed under the city charter – do not apply to zoning cases. The legal memo on behalf of Wal-Mart opponents pointed out that the City Council is only supposed to change zoning districts to correct an errot in regulations, to "recognize changed or changing conditions or circumstances in a particular locality", or to change a property "in accordance with the approved Comprehensive Plan." In the case of Desoto, the city just adopted a comp plan on April 1, 2003, and that plan says that when a zoning change is requested, "if the use differs substantially, that request should be denied." The Comp Plan is only supposed to be changed annually or at ten year periods. "What is happening in connection with this zoning case," the citizens' attorney said, "is, however, a 180 degree reversal of this process: a zoning change request is prompting a proposed change in the comprehensive plan...at the time this particular development was proposed, the ink was scarcely dry on the comprehensive plan, and no one..had suggested that the property in question be changed from its clear designation as single family residential...It should be obvious that this inverted approach sets the comprehensive plan, and the statute and ordinance requiring adherence to it, at naught." The citizen's charged that the city's actions have been arbitrary and capricious, "subject to the expediencies of the moment." Residents said they would seek a recall effort against the City Council.

What you can do: Residents in DeSoto have a reasonable list of legal complaints against the City Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission. Instead of being distracted by recall efforts, residents should focus their energy on raising funds to challenge the rezoning vote in court. The decision to rezone the land was not done according to state law, or local ordinance. City officials seemed driven by dreams of tax revenues, without having done any study to show the real net impact of this project. Furthermore, they violated their own land use plan, and jeopardized the property values of surrounding residential homeowners, who bought their properties on the reliance that the city's land use plan showed this land as having a single family residential use. This decision should lead to a courtroom, not to a ribbon-cutting. For local contacts in DeSoto, contact info@sprawl-busters.com.










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

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