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2005-02-20
Janesville, WI. Residents Sue Over Wal-Mart Development

In December, 2004, the Janesville, Wisconsin zoning board of appeals ruled that the town's plan commission correctly awarded Wal-Mart a conditional-use permit to build a Supercenter and Sam's Club on 50 acres on the city's northeast side. But the story, fortunately, did not end there. On February 10th, homeowners in the neighboring Briar Crest subdivision formed a group called the Citizen Advocates Regarding Initiatives for New Growth (CARING), and filed a lawsuit in Rock County Court. The homeowners say the city made several mistakes in approving the permit. CARING says the city incorrectly interpreted its traffic impact ordinance, and says the town failed to consider the requirement that the applicant show no adverse impact on neighboring property values. CARING says Wal-Mart presented no such evidence. The retailer was hoping to open its store in January of 2006, but the citizen's lawsuit means that Wal-Mart cannot say when work on the project will begin. The lawfirm representing Janesville residents, Garvey Stoddard, has represented several other community groups in their effort to force local communities to play by the rules. The local newspaper, the Janesville Gazette, shamelessly criticized the homeowners for daring to use their First Amendment rights, just as Wal-Mart has done countless times when zoning decisions did not meet with their approval. The Gazette editorialized that a lawsuit sends the message "to other developers that Janesville isn't a friendly place to do business...Janesville? Don't even bother inquiring there. Just look how those people fought Wal-Mart's development plans."

What you can do: In fact, a protracted court battle in Janesville sends a simpler message: homeowners have every right to defend the value of their property from large, commercial encroachment that threatens to devalue residential neighborhoods. When local officials can't see this problem, residents will use the same rights that the corporations use to appeal their denials: the First Amendment. The group CARE should be congratulated for standing up for their rights, and for the rights of the next neighborhood that will be assaulted with an out-of-scale, inappropriate big box store. To contact the lawfirm helping CARE, email info@sprawl-busters.com










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

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