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2006-02-02
Fairhope, AL 2,000 Residents Sign Anti-Wal-Mart Petition

As many as 400 upset residents crowded into close quarters at town hall in Fairhope, Alabama this week to make it clear they don't want a 203,819 s.f. supercenter just over the town line. Wal-Mart's only hope in Fairhope is that neighbors will think the project is a "done deal" and will go back and watch the Super Bowl. "I knew Fairhope would turn out for this," Dean Mosher, spokesman for the grass-roots group 'A Fair Hope of Success,' told the Mobile Register. "This is a historic moment." Mosher presented a petition signed by 2,000 area residents against the development. "We have all come together to learn why we have arrived at this crossroads in our wonderful city's history, to ask questions and perhaps illuminate the future course our leaders should take." Despite the huge turnout against the store, a Wal-Mart spokesman told the newspaper, "We certainly believe our proposed store will fit in well with the community." Residents of Fairhope sent Sprawl-Busters the following account of the January 30th meeting: "We had a great turn out at our town meeting. It was basically said that there is nothing we can do though except plan for the future after Wal-Mart opens. We still want to sit down with an attorney. It was stated at the very end of the meeting that because the parcel of land is "Colony Land" the lessees could vote and majority rule. The town fears that they will get sued and don't want to pursue the option. My feeling is who cares if you get sued, if this is an option we should take?

What you can do: The biggest sham in big box development today is the "done deal" syndrome, in which the developer's lawyer, or the town's lawyer says something like, "If they follow all our rules and ordinances, there's nothing we can do." The developer will say, "we can use this land 'as of right.' If this were so, there would be no need for site plan reviews, no need for public hearings, etc. Every site plan needs some level of local approval, and if a town must approve a project, by definition is has the right to disapprove it. Whenever someone tells me Wal-Mart is a done deal, I say, "Excuse me, I must not have heard you correctly. Did you say 'dumb deal', because there are no done deals unless you stay home." And whenever people ask me what their chance is of beating Wal-Mart I tell them, "If you don't fight, you have a 100% chance of losing." In the case of Fairhope, residents need to consult with a land use attorney -- from anywhere but Fairhope, to explore legal angles to take this project down. Sam Walton said if a town, for whatever reason, didn't want Wal-Mart to go in, they shouldn't create a fuss. Today, those words are not quoted among Chairman Sam's notable sayings, and his company largely ignores 400 people standing on their feet to oppose a supercenter.










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

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