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2005-09-09
Round Lake Beach, IL. Square Box In A Round Hole.

Can a square big box fit into a round hole? Wal-Mart's plan to squeeze a 205,000 s.f. superstore box into Round Lake Beach, Illinois has met with a round of opposition from local residents. What currently is a bean field would soon be an asphalt field if Wal-Mart gets its way. "It's simply the wrong place," Nancy Paulick, a founder of Homeowners Encouraging Responsible Development, told the Chicago Tribune. "Put a nice strip mall in. Put a nice anything in. But having your lights burning 24 hours and garbage flying all over the place? No way." On September 12th, Village Board members will have to choose between their own taxpayers, and the corporation that wants 24 acres of agricultural land rezoned to commercial. Several hundred Round Lake Beach residents will be directly affected. Local officials have argued that the new store will be good for tax revenues -- yet they have no concrete evidence to that effect -- other than Wal-Mart's self-serving projections. Mayor Rich Hill says he's for the new store, knowing that Wal-Mart will close down its existing discount store which is only half a mile away. The Mayor essentially is being blackmailed: Wal-Mart says its existing store is shutting down no matter what the outcome of the new store, and the Mayor has visions of losing $1 million a year in sales taxes. The Mayor calls Wal-Mart an "economic engine", but retail never drives growth -- it has to follow it. Wal-Mart sales are mostly transferred from existing merchants who had the sales before Wal-Mart arrived, and who have lost the sales now. Ironically, the Mayor is a human relations manager for nine Ace Hardware stores in Lake County. Wal-Mart supercenters will translate into less humans for Mayor Hill to manage. A Wal-Mart spokesman told the Tribune that his company was making many (unnamed) compromises to move into this location. "What we're trying to do is far beyond the scope of what an American company should have to do. We want to be a positive influence in the community as we have been for years upon years upon years." "Mayor Hill just seems to be running roughshod over a lot of people and telling his people in the village they need to put this thing in," one opponent told the Tribune. "I'm not against retail development. I'd be stupid to think that land's going to remain farmland. But if it takes two dumb housewives to take a stand and get involved to do what I think is necessary, that's what I'll do."

What you can do: Why is it "dumb" to think that farmland (which is a limited resource) cannot remain farmland? We have more than 3,700 Wal-Mart stores, but only one Round Lake Beach. The Tribune article quotes Sprawl-Buster Al Norman as saying, "the homeowners organization's best bet is in fighting the zoning change as "arbitrary and capricious. I'd encourage them to find themselves a good land-use attorney and convince civic officials that the Wal-Mart won't lead to a ribbon-cutting, it'll lead to a courtroom." The neighbors say they have legal counsel, and will file an appeal if the Village Board approves the Wal-Mart. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources says it's concerned about four species of endangered birds in the nearby Windance Acres Marsh -- but state environmental involvement is usually too little too late. Rezoning, however, is not a right, and the rezoning of land from farming to intense commercial is not just a shift -- it's a startling shift in terms of creating incompatible uses. The Village needs to follow its rules for considering rezoning, and consider the harm that will be done to surrounding residential values, and to the level of service of nearby roadways. Unless the Village gets independent traffic work done, and an independent property appraisal, they will be pushing the square box into the Round Lake hole without really knowing why it just doesn't fit. For local contacts in Round Lake Beach, contact info@sprawl-busters.com.










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

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