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2004-11-03
Helotes, TX. Residents Get Organized to Fight Wal-Mart "Done Deal" Syndrome

Wal-Mart has stirred up another battle in the community of Helotes, Texas. A citizen's group called the Helotes Area Heritage Association (HAHA), thinks that a proposed Wal-Mart superstore is no laughing matter. The superstore is proposed in an area of town known as the Scenic Loop, and residents are putting pressure on city officials to examine the traffic and environmental issues raised by the out-of-scale proposal. "People move out here because they want to be away from this kind of stuff, but it's the age-old story that they move to move away from sprawl and they bring sprawl with them," said group member Jon Allen. Wal-Mart has an agreement with a landowner for 30 acres in Helotes, contingent on approval by the city. Helotes officials have admitted that they have met with Wal-Mart representatives at a private meeting a couple of weeks ago. A Wal-Mart spokesman denied knowing of such a meeting, and the city Mayor, Steve Hodges, simply said that Wal-Mart was still studying the land. "It's not a done deal," the Mayor enigmatically said. But the handwriting is clearly on the WAL, and local residents wasted no time in reacting. "We're going to fight it," resident Chris Templeton told the San Antonio Express-News. "Here we get the absolute biggest monstrosity possible trying to move in on us. Right on our doorstep." The land in question is actually not in Helotes, but in the surrounding county. Wal-Mart is expected to ask the city to annex the land into Helotes, and the Mayor has said that annexation would give the city the sales and property tax revenue instead of the county. The Mayor has suggested publicly that the city is helpless to do anything about the project, and makes statements that make him seem like a reluctant prisoner of fate. "I wish they weren't going to build in Helotes and I wish they were five miles away or so, but it appears that they are going to move forward and plan on constructing in Helotes," he said. "Therefore, I will work with them the best I can for the best outcome for the city. As the mayor, I must represent the city and try to work with a developer that is going to develop... primarily because they are in our Extra Territorial Jurisdiction, and not in the city of Helotes." The Wal-Mart is located at the entranceway to Grey Forest, which is described as a city that has avoided big box commercial development. But even the Mayor of Grey Forest is selling out her community. "I know they are thinking of traffic, but things are changing," Mayor Ann Mabry told the Express-News. "We are growing, and I hope that they will look at it that it will benefit them in some ways."

What you can do: Residents in Helotes have good reason to be concerned about Wal-Mart's proposal. Local officials are clearly "in the tank" with Wal-Mart, despite the fact that they have absolutely no shred of evidence that suggests what the economic impact on their town will be. One City Councilor in Helotes said he was worried about plunging property values -- yet officials continue to talk about this project as if it were a financial windfall. Local officials rarely do their homework, and end up sounding like a Wal-Mart press release. In this case, the land is in the county, and should be governed by county zoning. But the Mayors of both communities seem to be oblivious to the real economic impact of loading up a community with people who sell things, while the people who make things close up and move away. For local contacts in Helotes, contact info@sprawl-busters.com










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

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