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2005-03-22
Columbus & Powell, OH. Residents Battling Over Wal-Mart Supercenters

City officials in Columbus, Ohio seem to be swooning over a proposed Wal-Mart supercenter, but local residents are prepared to fight the giant retailer and local officials to keep Wal-Mart out. The following report came in this week from the frontlines in Columbus: "Here is an update on our efforts to halt a Wal-Mart Supercenter from coming into the Carriage Place Shopping Mall into space vacated by Big Bear, the grocery chain that went bankrupt a couple of years ago. The Northwest Civic Association voted against the Wal-Mart supercenter for a couple of reasons, including insufficiency of parking slots in the number of several hundred, and for lack of setback on the rear side of the proposed development that abuts a city park and residential area. Also, traffic congestion is deemed an issue on one end of the mall where only one road gives access to the mall and a large residential development. The next upcoming event is the hearing of this applicant's request for rezoning/ variance before Columbus City Council. We expect a large show of opposition, and we will need to make our case again. If Council votes to approve, as did the rezoning commission, we are expecting to raise a referendum initiative, or, if that fails, file suit, if we have resources. There is another Wal-Mart battle going on several miles north of Carriage Mall in Liberty Township and the City of Powell where Wal-Mart wants to put in another Supercenter between two Kroger's. Land there was rural/residential. In that instance, the civic association formed a non-profit foundation and is suing Wal-Mart/the developer in federal court, a two-year old action, where the cost is over $80,000 in legal fees even when a couple of the association's attorneys who are members of the association/foundation are doing work pro bono for the suit." The Wal-Mart in Columbus has been approved by the city's Development Commission -- despite the fact that the project was rejected by both the Northwest Civic Association and the city's own professional development staff. The Commission not only approved a 187,023 s.f. Wal-Mart, but added a gas station as well. The owner of the mall, Casto Development, is depending on the addition of a Wal-Mart Supercenter to revitalize the shopping center. Lack of parking was the major barrier at the public hearing. According to the city's zoning code, the Wal-Mart project would need 2,133 parking spaces, but the Wal-Mart plan came up 439 spaces short. The mall as a whole is already 242 space short. Rather than insist that the Wal-Mart footprint be reduced to make up the difference, the Commission approved a variance of the parking standards. City staff wrote that "Staff can find no hardship or circumstances unique to the property to warrant such a request and concludes the need for the variance is a self-created problem." The Neighborhood Association said the deal "reneges on an agreement between the neighborhood and the developer." Neighbors testified that there was an agreement between the neighborhood and developer dating from the late 1980s, and the Wal-Mart plan takes a 20-foot buffer between the residential zone, and cuts it in half. The original agreement also called for no more than two large signs advertising the center only. "We don't want a hole there," the neighbors testified. "We want it developed in a manner compatible with our original agreement."

What you can do: The Columbus Development Commission gave Wal-Mart variances and other special favors at the expense of the neighborhood. Fortunately, the neighbors intend to fight to the City Council, and beyond, if necessary. The basic fact here is that the Wal-Mart could have been scaled back to require no variances, and to give more of a buffer to surrounding residential property. For local contacts in the Columbus area, contact info@sprawl-busters.com










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

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